By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO January 10, 2006 After two years of negotiating with the county, the Sullivan County Sheriffs Department PBA and negotiation committee recently voted unanimously to declare an impasse, which will likely lead to arbitration between the two sides.
The department has been without a working contract for the last two years. They are looking to receive dental and optical coverage as well as medical coverage upon retirement like all other police departments in the county.
In addition, they are seeking a raise similar to the county Probation Department. The Probation Department was recently awarded an eight percent raise following the settlement of their grievance filed two years ago. The probation officers and supervisors were also given a $3,500 retroactive payment, as well as a $1,500 stipend for all officers with peace officer status. That is on top of the scheduled raises they were already contracted for.
The department, including former Sullivan County Sheriff Dan Hogue, has long been complaining about low pay, which they say is driving deputies to other departments in the area, including the three major village police departments in the county, which all pay more.
According to Sullivan County Sheriffs Department Corporal Paul Slavik (the sergeant at arms on the patrol board), the average deputy makes approximately $32,000 a year. Starting deputies can earn about $28,000, while the highest ranking lieutenants can earn up to $58,000.
Last year alone, the department lost six deputies (including a sergeant) to other police departments. Slavik estimated it costs the county $30,000 to hire, train, recruit, and equip each deputy.
Security guards recently hired by Sullivan Community College make about the same as a starting Sheriffs Department deputy, said Slavik.
Slavik estimated the Sheriffs Department patrol is paid between $15,000 to $20,000 less than all other police agencies in the area. For example, a newly hired police officer in the Town of Fallsburg was hired last month at the rate of $38,684.94 per year.
In addition, the other agencies have better benefits, said Slavic. While the patrolmen pay 3 percent of their salaries towards the New York State Retirement System for the first ten years, other policemen dont pay into the system at all.
Most agencies allow their deputies to retire after 20 years of service, but deputies in the Sheriffs Department must work 25.
Sullivan County Sheriffs Department PBA President Sergeant Luis Alvarez said the patrolmen deserve to be compensated at least as well as probation officers. He said that when other police departments in the county are looking to fill a position, they often will hire a sheriffs deputy because they are trained professionals and proficient in their jobs.
We are going to lose our good men, he said.
Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham said the county is negotiating in good faith but declined to address specifics.
We absolutely value their service. Every negotiation is a process, he said.