Pay for Fulton County deputies with at least two years of experience will increase $2,500 in 2024 under a new contract.
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors approved the $64,000 to $66,500 bump, along with various amendments in the new agreement following months of negotiations. Such terms are intended to boost recruitment and retention efforts as the agency grapples with labor pains.
Sheriff Richard Giardino, who has criticized past decisions of the county government over the years, described negotiations as an example of the board putting action towards previous statements in support of law enforcement.
“I think that this contract will help stabilize and retain the people we have, and it’ll help us recruit other people,” Giardino said.
Also underscored in the deal is a 10% pay increase for corporals, 12.5% investigators, 15% sergeants and 19% lieutenants. The contract includes both effective and retroactive salary increases from 2022 to 2025 (the last contract ended in 2022, but negotiations were put on pause as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Administrative negotiators reached a tentative agreement with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Police Benevolent Association earlier this month. It subsequently received membership approval.
PBA president Jerrica Smith didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Board of Supervisor Chairman Scott Horton said that the negotiations were smooth sailing over the summer.
“There was no game playing on the part of the county,” said Horton. “The county did know that it needed to address the issues and the sheriff has made some good points.”
A wave of personnel over the last 20 years have left ranks for agencies such as Schenectady and Saratoga counties, — a phenomenon Giardino has attributed to losing parity with comparably sized counties. Turnover intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the road patrol at one point down 11 officers.
Currently, there are four vacant positions on the patrol. One corporal is out on medical leave. Three Albany County Sheriff’s Office Academy graduates and two more are expected to come onboard from the Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy in Schenectady come January.
“This contract makes us competitive with some of the area police agencies that we lose people to: Amsterdam police, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, Johnstown police and Gloversville,” Giardino said. “This will get us close enough.”
It’s hard to say whether or not the new contracts achieve parity, Horton said.
“They may have just ratified their contracts and if they did, we’re on parity and if they have work to do, we may get disparity,” said the county chairman. “But at least we’re making a very sincere attempt to take care of our law enforcement officers.”
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Employees Alliance also expires at year’s end. FCSEA represents corrections officers, civil office workers and 911 dispatchers in the Sheriff’s Department.
Negotiations reached an impasse last year. Tasked with establishing a non-binding resolution is state-appointed fact finder. The process is governed by the Public Employment Relations Board. It was originally scheduled to begin in July, but was later postponed.
“They decide when they’re going to issue any kind of report or guidance out of that process,” said Fulton County Administrator Jon Stead. “Things take a lot longer than you would think they do, so I don’t really know the timeline on that.”