Union County Sheriff Rocky Nelson has announced he will be instituting several short-term layoffs.

Union County Sheriff Rocky Nelson has announced he will be instituting several short-term layoffs.

The layoffs will affect deputies, dispatchers, sergeants and corporals effective immediately, according to a statement released by Nelson on Jan. 27.

The short-term layoffs amount to union employees receiving nine days off without pay and will be spread throughout 2010 to maintain operational efficiency and minimize impact on services, Nelson said.

"Rather than completely lay off at least four deputies right now for the entire year and perhaps more later on, this option keeps our staffing the same and we don't have to cut services to the public," Nelson said. "I know that the four deputies that would have lost their jobs really appreciate the fact that this option was available."

The short term layoffs this year follow six civilian and one part-time patrol deputy position laid off or abolished in March 2009 due to budget cuts.

The Sheriff's office salary budget was cut 5.1-percent this year from 2009's appropriations, and from pay raises that were kept by the three labor unions at the office, according to the release.

Deputies, dispatchers, sergeants and corporals are all represented by the Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council (FOP/OLC). With a salary budget less than 2009, the unions voted to keep pay increases of 14 percent for deputies, 13.5 percent for dispatchers, and 11.7 percent for sergeants and corporals that were negotiated in a three year contract that took affect in 2008. Pay increases were larger in 2010, due to the wage concessions made by the unions in 2009, according to the release.

Nelson said the wage increases come from an effort several years ago to make the employees' wages equitable to other positions in the state.

"The hard part is, in 2007 and 2008 we were trying to get them a respectable rate," Nelson said. "We were having our people get pulled away from us to Dublin and other areas - to attract or retain good, quality people, that was what we tried to accomplish when times were good. But then the economy turned south, and now we're at a point where people are just happy to have a job."

In 2009, the USCO was able to save $421,964 that was returned to the county's general fund, according to Nelson. That included $116,000 that was appropriated for equipment, $17,766 in appropriated federal stimulus money, and $305,580 in various line items in the budget.

"Savings was the result of command staff volunteering to fill in to cover details, the patrol deputies volunteering their time for military escorts, the use of volunteer special deputies, cutting down on overtime at the county fair, reducing the number of speed and DUI traffic enforcement projects, deputies taking compensatory time in lieu of pay, staggering and flexing shifts, and not filling open positions," Nelson said.

There are six open positions not being filled for 2010, in addition to the layoffs that occurred in 2009. Nelson said those positions include dispatchers, human resources and some road positions.

To further mitigate the budgetary shortfall, non-union employees and non-union command staff received no salary increases from the Sheriff's office.

"It's extremely frustrating to not be able to pay people a fair wage when others are getting such a dramatic increase because of their union contract," Nelson said.

Nelson declined to speculate on whether or not more permanent layoffs could be in his office's future.

"Right now, if another curve gets thrown my way, I'll deal with it accordingly," he said. "Right now there are too many factors I don't have control over, so it's difficult to even try to foresee what's going to happen."