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"Deputies get three-year contract, pay raise"
"Members of the Kitsap County Deputy Sheriff's Guild breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday as the Board of Commissioners ratified an updated three-year contract between the county and the guild.The contract, effective retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year through December 2002, was a long time in the making, said guild president and Sheriff's Deputy Craig Montgomery. Especially since county officials and guild members wanted to conduct this particular round of labor negotiations by themselves, without a legal arbitrator. Legal arbitration, Montgomery said, can take as long as two years - a fact which the guild and the county learned through experience.A previous contract between Kitsap County and the Deputy Sheriff's Guild was settled by an arbitrator in the fall of 1999, just four months before this term's three-year contract was scheduled to commence.That four-month period didn't give guild members or the county enough time for negotiation, said Montgomery during the county commissioners' meeting Monday morning. Now that we have a year and a half breather between contracts, both parties will have a good chance to negotiate. The guild is grateful to have avoided arbitration this time around. The process certainly wasn't easy going because we weren't always smiling at each other across the table.Kitsap County Administrator Malcolm Fleming chuckled and agreed with Montgomery on the point. But Fleming also pointed out that the three-year contract agreement contains the sixth most competitive salary package in Washington, beating out even King County Sheriff's deputies, who rank 11th. Kitsap County's previous contract with the Deputy Sheriff's Guild ranked No. 9 out of 39 such agreements throughout the state.Having such a competitive salary package will only help the county recruit and retain quality deputies, Fleming said during the same meeting. That will be our next step for the county.According to the Washington City and County Employee 2000 Salary and Benefit Survey, the average starting salary for a Kitsap County Sheriff's Deputy is anywhere between $3,217 and $4,104 a month, including benefits. The average salary, meanwhile for a King County Sheriff's Deputy, is anywhere from $3,047 and $4,267. Thurston County, ranked No. 15 and often considered a similar county to Kitsap, pays its deputies anywhere from $2,957 to $3,963 a month in salary and benefits.In addition to a more attractive and competitive salary package this term, the contract calls for a 3 percent wage increase retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year and another 1 percent increase retroactive to July 1 of this year. The contract also calls for more increases of 3 percent on Jan. 1, 2001, as well as July 1, 2001, and a final cost of living raise on Jan. 1, 2002.The guild's three-year contract is expected to cost the county about $6 million this year, $6.3 million in 2001 and $6.6 million in 2002, which is an overall increase of 10 percent.The guild and the county really wanted to take care of higher priority items on the contract including salary, benefits and medical coverage, said Kitsap County Undersheriff Dennis Bonneville. Both parties wanted to stay on track and get back to business as soon as possible. That's why some other items, agreed upon in principle already that don't carry budget impacts, will be revisited in the beginning of 2001 to come up with specific policy verbiage.At least four sections of the 24-item contract will be revisited at the beginning of 2001, Bonneville said, including guidelines for the drug-testing policy, a deputies' bill of rights, a code-of-conduct manuscript and a specific description of management rights. "