I just got home from the Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners Meeting where the commissioners voted unanimously to raise deputy pay an average of a little over three dollars an hour, with some deputies getting as much as $6 an hour increase. Our starting pay will now go to $14.89 an hour for a deputy starting with no experience. These pay increases put us at exactly the same pay scale the City of Santa Fe Police who were beginning to steal away our employees after they received two pay increases in just the last year. Law Enforcement over the last four to five years have become one of the most competitive fields of employment as less and less people are attracted to a career in law enforcement. Money verses risk has become more important as the days when young people grew up longing to be officers is long gone.
Many young people just don't feel the pay is worth it, young men and women today have a much higher expectation of pay than public service normally provides. So over the last few years Law Enforcement has had to come to grips with the fact that pay had to increase dramatically in order to attract new men and women to law enforcement jobs.
A little over three weeks ago we started losing deputies to the City of Santa Fe Police Department with many more putting in applications or talking about doing so. I called an emergency meeting with County Manager Roman Abeyta and the Heads of Finance and Human Resources. When I explained the dire straits we would soon be in the County Manager jumped on board and immediately began preparations and began gathering the figures and locating the money to match the city's pay. I have to give County Manager Roman Abeyta a lot of credit for not only understanding the problem but for not trying to band aid the problem and going out an making the raises happen. He showed great leadership in my opinion.
The County Manager then met with the commissioners and explained the need for the raises and why we needed to bite the bullet and match the city dollar for dollar. He came back with positive results so the next step was to get the union to agree not only to the raises but to set aside non monetary issues in the current negotiations and come up with an agreement on pay first. Usually during negotiations which we are now in the middle of all non financial issues are dealt with first leaving financial issues for last. The union and management stepped up the meetings and agreements were reached. The union membership voted on the contract agreement and we were now set for a final vote before the county commission. The total cost of the raises was just under $700,000. Not a small chunk of change to ask the commission to approve. None the less the vote was unanimous and the raises take effect the first full pay period in August.
Every one involved showed great leadership and worked hard to make this happen in an amazingly short amount of time. The citizens of Santa Fe County will benefit greatly from this and will absolutely get their monies worth from the deputies whom I know are the best of the best in New Mexico Law Enforcement.