Inflation, hiring competition drive request for Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy pay increase
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario wants a 7% pay increase for his deputies to keep up with inflation and hiring competition. But it’s a discussion that should extend to all county employees, county commissioners said Monday.
Vallario was before the commissioners seeking a $338,633 pay adjustment in his budget this year, as a tool to recruit and retain qualified deputies.
“Inflation is continuing to run at a four-decade high and, in addition to the intense competition for new hires, we are struggling to retain existing staff,” he said.
Vallario said his office recently polled the six municipal police departments in Garfield County regarding their starting wage. All but one pay more than the Sheriff’s Office, he said.
The requested mid-year hike would bump the starting salary from $26.17/hour currently to $28.
“The problem is retention and recruiting,” he said. “We’re always looking at the other agencies in our area to see who we might want to lure over.”
To do that requires a competitive wage, he said.
“Right now we’re not even getting people through the door with applications,” Vallario said. “It’s pretty clear we’ve fallen behind.”
Currently, the Sheriff’s Office is down 19 employees from a usual staff of 140 employees. Six of those are patrol positions, while most of the vacancies are in the jail division.
“We’re not at critical mass just yet, but it does just add a lot of stress and involves a lot of overtime to get things covered,” Vallario said, adding it also means that some vacation time and training opportunities have been denied.
But the challenge is not limited to the sheriff, as the county commissioners are prepared to address possible mid-year pay adjustments for the county workforce as a whole for the same reasons.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who sits on the county’s budget committee, said he would like to have the conversation as it relates to all county employees, not just those under the sheriff and other elected officials.
A mid-year county wage budget adjustment is already tentatively on the agenda for the commissioners July 18 meeting. That would be on top of a 5% wage boost that was already included in this year’s approved budget.
“We’re probably looking at another substantial increase for Jan. 1 (2023),” Jankovsky said. “I would like to wait on this until we have a broader proposal in front of us. The pressure to do this is coming from every elected official and every department.”
Boosting wages and providing other support for law enforcement in general is of particular concern, given growing concerns about an increase in crime nationally, he said.
Inflationary factors aren’t limited to wages when it comes to impacts on the county’s budget and those of other governmental entities. Last week, commissioners agreed to a mid-year increase of $412,000 to cover the county Road and Bridge Department’s fuel and motor oil costs for the remainder of the year.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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