SAGUACHE — At the March 6 commissioners meeting, Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick once again addressed the issue of pay raises he scheduled for staff members that were later denied by commissioners, who said they had to be approved before going into effect.
Commissioner Jason Anderson began by saying the board had already amended the budget, but Warwick reminded him that the raises he gave his employees were never outside his budget. County Attorney Ben Gibbons advised the board to do what they have done before for pay raises that were off cycle.
Jason Anderson then motioned to approve giving the sheriff the freedom to pay his payroll retroactive to Jan. 1. Commissioner Tim Lovato wished to discuss the matter before moving to approval.
Lovato said that looking at the numbers, it appeared that one employee only received a two percent raise while all the rest received a three percent increase. Warwick explained that that person held a grant-funded position and if he gives raises to those positions he will not be able to stay within his budget.
Jason Anderson commented: “We have people in this county we’re not able to feed — we didn’t do the three percent raise to cause harm, and it might not work in every situation.” He then suggested making adaptations.
Warwick replied that he has taken out $50,000 in surplus funds for a Saguache office to fill the town position, which the sheriff’s office is not planning to fill at this time, but technically the money is still there and was not used to fund the raises.
Commissioner Ken Anderson asked Warwick if he has a pay scale for deputy starting pay, then one for more experienced deputies, etc. Warwick replied he starts deputies out at about $28,000. Jason Anderson told Warwick that given the current market competition for deputy pay, the county should look at about $30,000 to start.
Warwick told Anderson he knows that all counties cannot be compared side by side, but starting pay for deputies in similar counties is $34,000.
Addressing Lovato, Warwick said he feels he has to beg for every dime the sheriff’s office spends and asked what purpose there is in having a budget if he can’t spend it. “You’re having to approve it makes no sense,” Warwick told the commissioners.
“Everything over $2,500 has to have the approval of the board,” Lovato insisted.
“You have to think about this in a different way,” Warwick pled. “I can’t do this. I can hardly run within the budget I’ve got. Jason Anderson said maybe the board needs to take a look at the policies. Ken Anderson assured Warwick the board would “get it worked out,” adding that commissioners were “not trying to be unfair.”
Warwick then reminded commissioners he would need a commitment from them if the county is to move forward on the deal he is working on to bring a registered nurse into the jail part-time to help deal with prisoner health issues. Saguache and Rio Grande counties would share the nurse, who would work part-time for each county, amounting to a full-time position.
Jason Anderson then apologized to Warwick, stating he is “disappointed in what it took us to get to this point.” Regarding all prior exchanges with the sheriff’s office, Anderson said the BoCC was “not as clear as we should have been— we won’t let it happen again.”
Warwick said getting commissioner approval for expenditures over $2,500 is not practical because at times his food bill at the jail exceeds that amount alone. “There are times when we need to move forward and deal with things then and there.”
Lovato suggested the county call special meetings to approve expenditures over $2,500. Jason Anderson suggested there needs to be a liaison between the sheriff’s office and the BoCC, as there is with other elected officials.
Commissioners finally approved the pay request retroactive to Jan. 1. Warwick, however, says he still does not agree he needs to run expenditures over $2,500 past commissioners.