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OK needed on Stanislaus County deputies' contract

A smattering of issues important to Stanislaus County workers, all linked to the poor economy, will go before county leaders this evening.

A majority of 180 sheriff's deputies represented by the new Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association agree to forgo raises in a contract to be ratified by county supervisors. But deputies would become eligible for raises if any union representing the county's 3,965 employees obtains a pay increase before the deputies' new deal expires at the end of 2010.

The sworn deputies, including detectives and patrol officers, earlier this year split from 220 jail guards now represented by the Stanislaus County Custodial Deputy Sheriff's Association. The jail union's political arm supports Sheriff Adam Christianson's re-election bid next year, but a majority of sworn deputies are backing challenger Rob Jackson, a Turlock police captain who worked 20 years for the Sheriff's Department.

Modesto police negotiators a year ago secured 10 percent raises over a little more than two years, setting the stage for a bitter standoff in June when cash-strapped city leaders required that police delay taking pay increases or face layoffs. Police refused, and eight were let go July 1. All were rehired when the city received a federal grant a month later.

County leaders are plugging a $30 million hole created by the state's financial crisis and expect to face a $20 million budget gap in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. They've laid off 638 workers over two years.

At today's meeting, supervisors will weigh a recommendation to lay off one more. Eliminating the fire warden's special operations coordinator, who monitors special rescue and hazardous material incidents throughout the county, would save $159,000 per year, a report says.

Supervisors are expected to restore Assessor Doug Harms' salary because he recently said he will retire in a year instead of seeking re-election. Furloughs approved in April reduced Harms' pay by 5 percent, but leaders exempted retiring workers to preserve their retirement pay. His salary would return to $144,000.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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