Deputies union says more money needed

The Kern Law Enforcement Association members overwhelmingly rejected a contract officer from Kern County that union leaders called an insult.

A news release from the KLEA, which represents more than 500 Kern County deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators, said 95 percent of its members voted against an offer that proposed a 2.5 percent raise, but also had "negative changes to overtime payments and elimination of an incentive program to new members."

The KLEA has complained that low salaries and benefits are causing many deputies to look for jobs in other areas, and Sheriff Donny Youngblood has agreed.

Youngblood and others are supporting a proposed 1 percent sales tax on the November ballot to raise money to pay higher wages and benefits.

"This offer fails to address the very real issues that are causing historically low staffing and morale within the Sheriff's Office, the KLEA said in a news release. "The current offer would have caused more of our deputies to leave for better paying agencies and would have severely impacted the public's safety by further reducing the number of deputies working for the Sheriff's Office.

KLEA president Tim Caughron said a significant raise is overdue.

"Kern County Deputy Sheriffs have not received a net salary increase since 2008," he said. "After 10 years of never-ending excuses, our members' welfare and safety cannot wait another year-and-a-half."

The KLEA charged that County leaders have "failed to properly staff the Sheriff's Office with deputies, causing the department to operate well below minimum safe staffing levels. It is a routine occurrence for deputies to be held over after their shifts and to be denied time off due to abysmally deficient staffing."