(DENVER, Colo.) -- County commissioners heeded Thursday the pleas of county employees to raise their pay by adding more than $5.5 million in benefits and salary increases for next year.
Pay will increase up to 6 percent for beginning employees and those in the midrange of seniority, and salaries for top-scale employees will go up 3 percent, with an extra 3 percent increase possible for merit.
Veteran sheriff's detectives complained that the increase still leaves them far behind counterparts in other metro-area counties.
Sheriff's deputies who 10 years ago were the second-highest-paid officers in the county now find themselves in sixth place and far below salaries of deputies with similar experience in several other metro-area counties.
"It's still below the rate of inflation. They basically slapped us in the face again," said sheriff's Detective Mark George, who joined other sheriff's deputies, administrators and employees from other county agencies in the commissioner's hearing room Thursday.
Commissioners last month heard deputies and Sheriff George Epp detail the departure of 19 experienced employees for other jurisdictions that pay more.
Employees from other county agencies also recently pleaded with commissioners for salary increases, citing the growing cost of living in the county.
Commissioners asked all departments to limit their budget increases this year to 2 percent of 2000 budgets. They also voted Thursday to trim all budget increases and convert the money into employee salaries.
Commissioner Ron Stewart said the county will spend $5.5 million in salaries and benefits for employees next year, with nearly $4.2 million going to salaries.
"It became clear to us that we needed to put more money into the salaries of employees we now have," Stewart said.
Epp said the pay raises are a "good step forward" but wants more money for senior sheriff's deputies, who now earn $4,080 a month. Every major law enforcement agency in the county pays more, led by Boulder, with a maximum of $4,485 monthly for senior officers.
"I'm still concerned with our senior officers and their pay scale," Epp said. "I don't think they are compensated as well as they should be."
(iSyndicate; Denver Rocky Mountain News; Nov. 10, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.