10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, March 30, 2011

By DUANE W. GANG
The Press-Enterprise

Contract talks between Riverside County and the union representing sheriff’s deputies took a public turn this week.

The Riverside Sheriff’s Association released a statement Tuesday saying the county rejected multiple offers that would have saved as much as $28 million over the next three years.

“The Riverside County Board of Supervisors has asked the men and women of the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association to propose a fair plan that will reduce compensation without harming public safety in the communities they represent,” association President Pat McNamara said in the statement.

“For the fourth time in two years we are offering them a plan that meets those goals in a fair and equitable manner.”

Riverside County faces another difficult budget year.

Sheriff Stan Sniff told supervisors Tuesday that his department needs a projected $287 million in general fund money for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Sniff said the amount could be cut to $260 million with the Jurupa Valley city incorporation and union savings. The county executive office’s target for the department is $225 million.

The sheriff’s association said it offered March 2 to have members contribute toward their retirement.

The offer would have saved the county $28 million over three years, the union said. Currently, deputies contribute to their retirement for the first three years of employment. The county picks up the tab after that.

The sheriff’s association also said it offered last week a salary freeze and 208 furlough hours over the next 27 months. The move would have saved the county $27 million, the association said.

Similarly, the association said it offered to defer wage increases in 2009 and 2010 to save the county a combined $16.2 million.

But county officials said Wednesday that the sheriff’s association offers amount to only half the savings needed.

Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith said the association in the past offered to give up only future pay raises “without taking the real pay cuts that almost every other county employee has taken.”

“It’s an issue of being fair to all employees,” he said.

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