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Arbitrator’s ruling gives pay increase to Washoe County sheriff’s deputies

RENO – Washoe County sheriff’s deputies and supervisors will be getting a raise under a ruling by an arbitrator who said the county had the funds to pay for it.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reports the 3.1 percent pay raise for 414 members of the Washoe County Deputies Association and its supervisory group will cost the county about $1.3 million this year.

County officials said the pay increase is the equivalent of 13 deputy positions and could require cost-cutting measures elsewhere in the budget, including possible layoffs.

Washoe County management pushed for a 3.4 percent pay cut for this fiscal year to save the county $1.3 million. The county this year eliminated 51 vacant employee positions and has reduced the county’s overall staffing by 27 percent over the course of the recession.

Under Nevada labor law, an arbitrator must choose between two final offers. In this case, those two offers were the county’s request for a pay cut and the deputies’ request for a pay increase.

In a ruling issued Sept. 17, arbitrator Ronald Hoh sided with the employee bargaining groups.

In their testimony, the deputy associations argued economic trends in Washoe County have improved, including increases in sales tax collections and a unemployment rate that has fallen from a high of 14.1 percent to a current 12.1 percent.

Among other arguments, the deputies said the county was able to transfer $19 million from its general fund to its long-term liability fund to pay for retiree health benefits, which county officials say is needed to ensure financial stability in the years to come.

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkin in a statement said, “We are disappointed in the ruling, but we are grateful for the efforts already made that produced a balanced budget for this year. Because we balanced the budget, the arbitrator found that we had the ability to pay the requested increase. “

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