Supervisors relying on salary study for deputies

July 13, 2017

Here’s a big, long question that will take at least a couple months, maybe more, to answer:
Will a countywide compensation and classification study, by a public sector human resources consulting firm, shed light on what needs to be done by the Board of Supervisors to address Merced County’s inability to retain deputy sheriffs?
During Tuesday’s board meeting, as was the case during the June 20 meeting, local law enforcement individuals and other citizens came forward to voice their opinions on the ongoing issue of deputies leaving their jobs, resulting in serious public safety concerns, and allegations that low pay is the reason.
One Merced County deputy sheriff described the problem, noting that two newly hired deputies recently quit after receiving their first paycheck.
"The state continues to release inmates, there is an unsustainable staff shortage, and the situation will not improve until pay and benefits are comparable to surrounding areas,” the deputy said.
Sheriff Vern Warnke, who has begged leaders for salary increases for the past three years in a row, did not mince words during an interview with the Times.
"I’m down 16 bodies,” he said. “I will add eight, but they’re not qualified to be on the streets yet. I’ve got three in the Academy. That makes 27 positions filled, but not cops. I have 36, but I need 48."
Commenting that the supervisors have the authority to allocate more funds for deputy sheriff salaries, he said: “The ball is in their court."
Board Chairman Daron McDaniel tried to ease concerns by saying the situation was under study.
"It’s a constant conversation,” he said. “We want to be fair. We want to do the right thing. We’re doing a full comprehensive study."
Mike North, a county administrative analyst, told the Times that Koff & Associates, headquartered in Berkeley, has been hired to perform a classification and compensation study that will look at a number of relevant areas to determine how the county stacks up in terms of compensation, countywide.
"We’re expecting a draft back in the September or October time frame,” he said, “and we’re trying to fast track the deputy sheriff component. I can’t tell you an exact date. … We’re looking at this both internally and externally, both how our employees are compensated and classified (are they working within the tasks they are assigned), as well as how we compare to some of our neighboring counties. The counties we are looking at are Fresno, Kern, Kings, San Joaquin, Madera, Stanislaus and Tulare. … We have a classification and compensation structure in the county that addresses job description and salary ranges. … Positions performing similar work with the same level of complexity, responsibility, abilities, knowledge, and skills should be classified together and then, of course, the goal is to determine if we are providing salaries commensurate with assigned duties.”

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