BY JENNIFER CABRERA
ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr., and the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will provide cost-of-living (COLA) raises of 11.4% for sworn employees. In addition, the Sheriff announced that civilian and Combined Communications Center personnel will receive COLA raises of 10%.
Last week, the Sheriff met with the Alachua County Commission, explaining that the reason he had not implemented the 7% raises provided by the board to all County employees was two-fold: he wanted to raise sworn employees to $47,000 and needed more funds to do that, and the union had not voted on the pay increase. The board allocated an additional $2.7 million to the Sheriff out of unused funds his office had returned from the previous fiscal year, and PBA and the Sheriff held a negotiation this morning that resulted in the MOU.
As a result of the agreement, the entry-level salary for deputies and corrections officers will be $47,023; the Sheriff says his goal is still to increase the starting pay to $50,000. Sworn personnel who received step increases this year will now receive a 13.9%-15.4% raise. Base pay will also increase to $63,343 for sergeants and $79,813 for lieutenants. The raises will be retroactive to October 1, 2022, and will be paid on the November 23 paycheck.
The COLA increase for other employees will bring the entry-level hourly rate to $16.50. Non-sworn employees who received step increases this year will receive a 10%-12.5% raise.
In a written release, Sheriff Watson said, “This historic milestone and needed pay raise will greatly benefit the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office in many ways. Current employees will receive raises in time for the holiday. Our recruitment efforts will also benefit, bringing relief to our employees as we become more competitive in our efforts to seek qualified new employees and raise employee retention rates for rewarding careers.”
Jody Branaman, North Central Florida PBA President, sent a written statement saying the agreement “will help make the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office much more competitive in hiring and retaining the very best law enforcement officers to maintain public safety for everyone in our county. We are very grateful to the County Commission, which recognized our needs and returned vital funding to the Sheriff’s Office to help make this deal possible. We look forward to building upon this contract to ensure our county continues to make investing in public safety among its top priorities.”
Updated at 6:15 p.m. with statement from Branaman.