Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office

After 10 months of negotiations between the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office management and the Sandoval County Sheriff Deputies Association, an agreement was reached in February.

To conclude these negotiations, a federal mediator was brought in, said union chapter Vice President Deputy Eric Steen. Deputies will receive a 3 percent raise and a medical benefit package in which the county pays up to 80 percent of the costs.

Sandoval County commissioners agreed to absorb 10 percent of the costs to bring medical benefits up to 80 percent, according to a letter from the association. The improvements to medical benefits brought the sheriff’s office to a similar level as the surrounding agencies’ medical benefits.

“Our retirement contributions are still 2 percent higher than surrounding agencies; however, over all, our benefits are no longer a hiring or a retaining problem,” according to the letter.

The deputies have a wage gap compared to surrounding agencies.

“We currently start experienced deputies more than $5 lower than Rio Rancho Police Department, and there is an even greater disparity between Sandoval County and Albuquerque, Bernalillo and Santa Fe agencies,” according to the letter.

The wage gap creates issues in attracting and retaining quality employees.

“Retaining our deputies is a challenge that seems nearly impossible, as the majority of our deputies have only been with us for a few years. Just this month, we expect to lose five deputies; four of these deputies are leaving due to this agency’s lower pay,” stated the letter.

The association hopes to close this gap during negotiations this year. They plan to have their first meeting of negotiations at the end of July, Steen said.

“We are hopeful that our current county commissioners will continue to work on this problem as the additional resources become available,” stated the letter.

The union is a chapter of the New Mexico Coalition of Public Safety Officers.