ACA negotiated between the county and the Coalition of Public Safety Officers OK by commission

BERNALILLO – The Sandoval County Commission voted 4-1 to approve the collective agreement negotiated between the county and the New Mexico Coalition of Public Safety Officers at Thursday night’s meeting.

Commissioner Jay Block represented the dissenting vote in favor of impacted agencies, including sheriff’s deputies.

He told the Observer the county could have done more to increase the salaries of first responders.

“They haven’t had a raise for a long time, and these negotiations just broke down,” he said. “MPs are losing money. I put our first responders on a different level because they put their lives at risk every day.

CBA articles cover issues ranging from compensation and leave policies to internal investigations, with compensation at the forefront.

“(Paying) the highest priority because it means a lot to so many people,” Deputy County Manager Robert Doucette Jr. said, adding that the negotiations had never escalated.

Notable changes to CBA benefits include the new cost-sharing ratio between county and employees for basic insurance packages, including health, dental and long-term disability. Historically, the ratio has been 70 percent county to 30 percent of employees.

Under the agreement, the ratio for county health insurance will be 80 percent for 20 percent of employees. In addition, basic life insurance, accidental death and disability coverage of up to $ 50,000 will be fully paid for by the county.

The county currently pays 11.5% of employee retirement benefits, but has the option of paying up to 13%.

“It’s something I want to watch,” said Doucette Jr.

Other proposals under the CBA include a 2 percent salary increase for MPs. Although unsuccessful, Block suggested a 3 percent pay rise and / or additional retirement benefits. He told the Observer the county has the money to increase 3% or additional retirement benefits, adding that Sandoval County must compete with neighboring municipalities in this regard.

“I would have accepted one of those… I wanted the MPs, the first responders, to know that I support them,” Block said. “For me (a 2% increase) was not enough. It did not meet their needs … We have lost so many members to other regions for higher salaries, and that puts our riding in danger. This is how I see it.

He also said he was “not asking for much to support them a little more” due to the stress and scrutiny they are already under.

The NMPSCO requested the reopening of negotiations on March 23, 2020, but these negotiations were suspended due to COVID-19. Negotiations began last October, with the county and NMPSCO resuming talks over a limited “reopening” of wages, pensions, shift offers and vehicles.

Thursday marked the end of this last round of negotiations, but these talks can be reviewed in the next round in March 2022.

“I look forward to this. I look forward to the dialogue,” said Doucette Jr.

The next meeting of the departmental committee is set for Thursday, October 21 at 6 p.m.

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Susan W. Lloyd

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