County approves long-term contracts
Long-term contracts for Douglas County’s three employee unions were approved 4-1 in a late-night session by county commissioners on Thursday night.
The longest contract was for the 140 members of the Douglas County Public Employees Association that will cost taxpayers $3.2 million over seven years.
A five-year contract with the 85 members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Protective Association will cost $2.2 million, while the contract for the 14 members of the Sheriff’s sergeants bargaining unit will cost $783,157 over five years.
The cost of the contracts and increases for nonrepresented employees will be $13.69 million over the seven years, according to figures released by the county on Thursday. Revenues during that same period are anticipated to be $18.19 million.
“This is what’s best for employees and what’s best for residents,” Commission Chairman Barry Penzel said. “The first rule is to take care of your employees or you don’t take care of your business. We’re able to put $22 million into infrastructure this year. We’re turning this big ship, so we can do big investments in infrastructure.”
Two errors prompted a few calls to delay approval of the contracts.
One of the errors, which showed the contracts would cost triple what they actually do, was caught before the meeting.
“I appreciate the new numbers,” Commissioner Steve Thaler said. “When I saw the numbers, my first call was to the boss. It’s disappointing when we get information that goes out to the public, who doesn’t know who to contact to get right information.”
Commissioner Dave Nelson, who was the lone vote against all four contracts challenged one of the clauses in the contract, saying it wasn’t clear that the cost of living adjustment in off years maxed out at 2 percent.
Employee’s Association President Michael Avila said he would sign a memorandum of understanding with the county to ensure employees understood the maximum cost of living based on consumer price index adjustment would be 2 percent in even years. The contract guarantees a 2 percent increase in odd years.
Avila said the employees’ vote on the contract was 40-12.
Nelson’s concerns were echoed by residents David Maxwell and Lynn Muzzy who called for delays in the contract.
“I think this whole thing was messed up,” he said when asked why he was opposing the contracts. “It’s a comedy of errors.”
Human Resources Director Wendy Lang said the contracts cut merit increase potential for employees in half from 6 percent to 3 percent.
The largest group of employees to benefit from Thursday’s approvals were the 276 not represented by a union.
Nonrepresented employees include those who work for the towns of Minden, Gardnerville and Genoa and personnel of District Courts I and II, East Fork Justice Court, Tahoe Justice Court, China Spring Youth Camp and Juvenile Probation.
While they include managers, Thaler pointed out they also include the county’s lowest paid employees.
The fiscal impact for those employees also accounts $7.44 million over seven years, or more than half of the total the cost to the county.