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County and sheriff’s deputies reach agreement on new labor contract

Tuesday morning, Aug. 5, St. Croix County supervisors finalized a union contract that will give 70 St. Croix County patrol deputies, investigators and jailers pay increases for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The agreement with the Wisconsin Professional Police Association was adopted on a unanimous vote by the County Board.

The settlement will give a series of raises, some retroactive: a 2 percent increase effective Jan. 1, 2013; 1 percent effective July 1, 2013; 2 percent effective Jan. 1, 2014; 1 percent effective July 1, 2014; and 2 percent effective Jan. 1, 2015.

The 2014 cost is estimated at $375,000 for the retroactive pay adjustments and raises for the rest of the year. Once the amounts are figured, each officer will be issued a separate check for the back pay, said Human Resources Director Tammy Funk.

The county is mid-year in its budget so at the end of 2014 the sheriff, jail and general fund accounts will be reconciled to determine if general fund balance money is needed to pay the raises. The 2015 cost will be included in the 2015 budget.

Officers in WPPA -- the only county union left after the Wisconsin Legislature adopted Act 10 -- have been working without a contract since the previous one expired at the end of 2012.

Supervisors also pointed out that the deputies voluntarily began paying the same share of state retirement contributions other county employees are required to pay. The percent varies annually, but it’s about seven percent.

“I just hope next time it doesn’t take this long,” said Supervisor Scott Nelson, town of Hudson. He said one and one-half years is too long to go without a contract.

“It was longer this time just because of the pay for performance discussions,” said Funk. She said the county had hoped to implement that pay plan, used for non-union workers, in the union contract. But in the end, county negotiators dropped that idea.

Pay for performance doesn’t work for this group, said Nelson: “They go out there and do their job. They don’t know what they’re going to get every day.”

Nelson said negotiations go faster when there is trust and respect. He advised that it’s up to county administrators to make negotiations work better next time.

Supervisor Andy Brinkman, New Richmond area, noted that the deputies got no wage increase in 2011 or 2012. He said the settlement is fair to both sides and giving the raise into 2015 will provide a cooling-off period before negotiations begin for 2016.

The contract also says the county will continue to, on a trial basis, provide an incentive program to encourage officers to stay fit and maintain good health. Each officer will be eligible for up to $300 a year to buy a membership in a formal health and wellness program.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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