OC Approves $151 Million in Sheriff’s Deputy Raises

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

More than $150 million in raises for Orange County deputy sheriffs were approved by county supervisors without public discussion Tuesday.

The raises have prompted questions about the fiscal impact on the county’s social and health programs as well as the transparency of disclosing the overall financial impacts at the last allowable time before the vote.

The only public discussion about the raises Tuesday were brief comments from members of the public who questioned them.

In a message to union members after the vote, the deputies’ union’s board thanked supervisors and Sheriff Don Barnes “for their leadership and commitment during the difficult negotiations process.”

“The action taken today is a public demonstration of support for the sworn members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office and it is appreciated,” the board wrote.

OC supervisors have in recent years tried to redirect resources towards addressing homelessness and fixing systemic gaps in the mental health system. About $110 million of the deputy raises – and $48 million per year ongoing – will come from county funds that could be used for health and homeless services and other programs.

The contract grants deputy sheriffs a series of 3.5-percent raises between now and July 2022, moving salaries at that point to 14.7 percent above their current levels.

The total cost to the county over the four-year contract is estimated at $151 million, of which $110 million is from the county’s unrestricted funds that can be used for any government services. The annual impact is $48 million per year in unrestricted funds starting in July 2022.

After months of negotiations, the deal points were tentatively agreed to in secret on Sept. 25 and were then ratified by union members.

The county posted the 119-page contract online last Tuesday, Oct. 1 without noting it would be up for approval at today’s supervisor’s meeting or what its financial impacts are. Three days later on Friday – the last day to add items to the agenda – county officials revealed it would be up for approval Tuesday and what it would cost.

For a full run-down on the contract and official reactions about the vote, check out our original story on the issue, here.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.