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Originally published Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 1:26 PM

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Constantine rejects deputies' offer to cut pay

King County Executive Dow Constantine has rejected an offer from sheriff's deputies to roll back part of a pending pay increase, saying their proposal's no-layoff provision would cost the county more money than it saved.

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County Executive Dow Constantine has rejected an offer from sheriff's deputies to roll back part of a pending pay increase, saying their proposed no-layoff provision would cost the county more money than the wage concession saved.

Deputies, represented by the King County Police Officers Guild, offered Dec. 9 to reduce a contracted 5 percent pay raise in 2011 to 3 percent, with the deferred dollars to be paid back to officers in 2013.

The proposal, which the guild described as its "last, best and final offer," was contingent on there being no officer layoffs next year.

The problem with that condition, Constantine's office said Thursday, is that savings from the wage concession would be less than the cost to guarantee the jobs of up to 15 officers set to be laid off Jan. 1 and up to 11 others who may be dismissed June 1.

The Jan. 1 layoffs result from county budget troubles and the possible June 1 firings reflect Kirkland's plan to take over police patrols from King County when the city annexes the Juanita, Finn Hill and Kingsgate neighborhoods.

County Budget Director Dwight Dively said the guild's proposed wage rollback would have saved $1.3 million, but the non-layoff provision would have cost as much as $2.5 million.

Dively said extending deputies' current medical benefits through 2013, as proposed by the guild, would continue a plan that is 5 percent more expensive than other employees' health-care costs. That difference could cost the county more than $500,000, he said.

Guild President Steve Eggert could not be reached for comment.

"It saddens me that we will now have to move forward with laying off some of the finest deputies I've worked with in the past 30 years," Sheriff Sue Rahr told 600 deputies and other employees by e-mail Thursday.

John Urquhart, spokesman for Rahr, said the sheriff was surprised by Constantine's statement that a moratorium on annexation-related layoffs would hurt the county's bottom line.

"She was very clear with Dow that we did not anticipate having to lay off deputies as a result of the Finn Hill annexation. By June, attrition would have taken care of that," Urquhart said.

"That is certainly her hope," Dively said. "It may well come true, but we have no way to know that for sure."

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He said the deputies' proposed wage concession wasn't large enough to offset all the Jan. 1 layoffs, much less any June 1 job cuts.

The guild's offer was a response to Constantine's request that all union-represented workers, like nonunion employees, agree to take no cost-of-living increase next year. More than 90 percent of represented employees agreed to forgo raises, Constantine has said.

Constantine said in a statement he appreciated the guild's making an offer, adding, "Our door remains open. I believe we can come up with a solution that meets our mutual interest of protecting public safety."

Rahr, who told employees Thursday she is looking for ways to reduce the Jan. 1 layoffs, has said budget cuts will force her to leave dozens of other deputy jobs unfilled, ending most property-crime investigations, closing storefront offices and eliminating school-resource officers.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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