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Union agreement leads to higher budget request at sheriff’s office

WARREN — More than 25 percent of the increased budget request by the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office for 2018 is the result of increased pay and benefits included in a union agreement for corrections officers that Trumbull County was forced to accept.

The 62 members of the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association were awarded 35 cents more per hour for 2017, 30 cents more for 2018 and 30 cents more in 2019 by a conciliator with the State Employment Relations Board.

“There is going to be an increase in salaries based on the union contract,” sheriff’s Maj. Dan Mason said.

The conciliator also ended the county’s prior agreement to pay 4 percent of the employee portion of retirement contributions if they were hired after 2010, and decided the county will pick up 8.5 percent of the contribution, like they do for employees hired before 2010, in order to eliminate the “two-tier system.”

The office asked for $629,000 more for jail personnel than was budgeted in 2017 to cover the costs of the increases in 2018.

The jail was budgeted $6.3 million in 2017, and the office wants $7.8 million for 2018.

The entire office, including the deputy division, had an operating budget of about $14.5 million for 2017, and is requesting about $16.7 million for 2018, a 15 percent increase.

Another big chunk of the higher budget request is the $1.26 million the sheriff’s office requested for employee hospitalization benefits, compared to the $857,000 budgeted for 2017. Trumbull County Auditor Adrian Biviano said the insurance industry is anticipating 10.5 percent increases on average in 2018 for the benefit.

The county and the union went into binding arbitration procedures after they failed to reach an agreement on their own and could not agree to accept a prior compromise offered by an independent fact finder.

The union’s last contract with the county expired at the end of 2016 and labor negotiations began in January. The 2017 budget for the corrections officers increased by $108,000 over 2016.

The county’s last proposal was for 30-cent increases in 2017 and 2018, with a wage re-opener in 2019 and a freeze on the starting wage at $15.66 an hour, the conciliator’s report states.

The county also is responsible for paying an employer share of the contributions to the Ohio Public Employee’s Retirement System and in negotiations tried unsuccessfully to eliminate paying any employee contributions to the system.

In negotiations, the OPBA argued the officers are paid less that comparable unions in the area.

But Debra Santangelo, the county’s chief accountant, testified the county could not financially support wage increases because it is depressed economically, suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, and has suffered from population loss, declining casino revenue and fewer dollars from the state.

The county did not present evidence to show that its corrections officers’ wages are competitive with comparable jurisdictions.

The sheriff’s office also wants more cash for other expenses in the jail and for road deputies, including new radios, new vests, cash for prisoner transportation and drug testing. Because the jail has been stressed with inmates as a result of the opioid epidemic, the jail also needs more funds for inmate food, medical care, clothing and supplies, Mason said.

“With the opioid epidemic, our jail has been pretty much beyond capacity. That creates an increase in the housing and the upkeep of the jail, as well as the food service because we pay per meal. There are also increases in medical because of the opioid epidemic,” Mason said.

The office is generating more cash than it used to with booking and warrant fees, in an effort to offset the increase, Mason said.

The sheriff’s office isn’t the only department asking for more money for 2018. The auditor and commissioners received $51 million in budget requests, compared to the $44.5 million budgeted for 2017 and the planned 2018 budget of $45 million. A 2018 budget will be ready in a few weeks and will be certified in February, Biviano said.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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