Deputy association concerned about pay, insurance costs during negotiations

Federal mediator could enter into negotiations

BEXAR COUNTY – Several deputies addressed the Bexar County Commissioners Court Tuesday asking for what they believe is fair pay. The Deputy Sheriffs Association of Bexar County is currently in negotiations with the county to hammer out a new three-year contract.

The previous contract expired on Sept. 30, 2015.

While negotiations are ongoing, the contract remains in its evergreen clause, which lasts until Sept. 30, 2017. That evergreen clause holds wages steady until it expires, but it does not do the same for insurance costs.

County commissioners recently approved an increase in insurance premiums for all county employees, including deputies.

“I mean, you can’t give with one hand and take with the other,” said Juan Contreras, president of Deputy Sheriffs Association of Bexar County. “I think morale is a big issue among the troops, and I think the compensation part is a part of that morale."

Bexar County is offering deputies a 13.5 percent pay increase over a new three-year contract, totaling $11.5 million.

Meanwhile, the cost of insurance premiums for county employees could go up by as much as 17 percent, depending on the plan employees choose.

The county is also charging spouses of employees an extra $100 per month if that spouse elects coverage offered by Bexar County when they could choose insurance coverage through their own employer.

“The reality is that health insurance costs are going up for everybody,” said Lowell Denton, chief negotiator for Bexar County. “Its unfortunate that in this budget cycle, even though the county has maintained insurance costs that were relatively flat which has not been true for everybody, we've got to try to solve that problem.”

The new insurance cost increase takes effect Jan. 1 and applies to deputies, even if they don't reach a deal with the county by that time. Denton remains optimistic that with a new year will come a new contract.

"We're committed to working with them, to come up with something they feel is fair and affordable,” Denton said.

Contreras, however, believes both parties could agree to a federal mediator by the end of the month.

“We're not asking to be the top-paid agency in Texas. We're just asking to be treated fairly,” he said. 

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