Anne Arundel County deputy sheriffs approved last night a three-year contract that gives them a 7 percent pay raise. Union officials said the vote reflected the deputies' mixed feelings about the county's offer.
The vote was 25 to 8, but many of the 56 deputies did not cast ballots.
The pact also crunches the pay scale to allow deputies to reach the top salary grade in a decade instead of the current 22 years -- two years after they were eligible to retire -- and phases in gun and clothing allowances.
"The main thing we really wanted was the reduction in the scale," said Sheriff's Deputy David Belisle, shop steward.
"They had a chance to look at [the county's offer] and looked at the long-term benefits of it," said J. William Mowery, business agent for Teamsters Local 103, which represents the deputies.
The vote came on the eve of the release of contract recommendations by a fact-finder hired by both sides and due out today.
Union officials said the vote also was influenced by the fact that many deputies did not want to take any more chances with the contract, especially after a County Council hearing that is set for Monday, and did not think they could do better.
"We sat down and [studied] what [the contract] meant to each person," Belisle said. "We were able to show each person what they have in hand."
Some provisions of the contract that the deputies ratified were far different from what they were seeking. They sought the same 17 percent raise over three years that County Executive Janet S. Owens gave county police, but she refused.
The contract that the deputies ratified was the third that the county had offered them in six weeks.
The contract, which will take effect on July 1 -- the beginning of the new fiscal year -- is nearly identical to the second offer, but the gun and clothing allowances are slightly higher.
Starting pay will go from $25,800 this year -- less than the salaries earned by some of the county's 911 emergency dispatchers -- to about $29,000 in the third year of the contract. Other increases vary, depending on where in the the pay scale the deputy is and how long he or she has been working.
Deputies have long complained that their public safety role is undervalued. They serve all court warrants and summonses and provide security for the Circuit Court. . They must pass the same certification tests as police officers. They also have two explosives-sniffing dogs, and the canines and their handlers have responded to hundreds of bomb threats around the region in the last few years.
Deputies unanimously rejected the county's initial offer of a 6 percent pay raise, saying they considered it ridiculous.