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County workers to get 3% cost-of-living raise

October 12, 2017 GMT

Hundreds of Santa Fe County employees are in line for a bigger raise than usual early next year.

County management and the county’s chapter of a public workers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, agreed to a 3 percent cost-of-living increase scheduled to take effect in January.

Lucas J. Herrera, president of the AFSCME Local 1782, said he couldn’t immediately recall the last time his 250 workers received a raise of more than 1 percent.

The increase was negotiated after AFSCME Local 1782 secured a new collective bargaining agreement with the county in January 2017. That deal runs through 2022. County commissioners on Tuesday approved the contract adjustment without discussion as part of their consent agenda.

Language in the amendment approved Tuesday ensures union employees will receive cost-of-living increases “comparable” to any granted to nonunion employees in each subsequent year of the agreement. What those numbers might look like, Herrera said, “is hard to say” and will depend on revenues.

But “negotiations, I believe, went great,” he added.

Employees received a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment in the collective bargaining agreement that expired last year, Herrera said.

It was not immediately clear how much the raises would cost the county government. Messages left for county spokeswoman Kristine Mihelcic were not returned.

The county workers’ cost-of-living adjustment comes only a few months after the city of Santa Fe reached a new bargaining agreement with its workers union.

The city deal grants a 2 percent raise to its 746 union employees each year through 2020, coming at a cost of $1.45 million annually.

Michelle Gutierrez, president of AFSCME Local 3999, said the agreement allows the union to negotiate for a higher annual raise.

“If [gross receipts taxes] and lodgers [taxes] and the financials are doing well, then it’ll be more than a 2 percent,” she said.

The extent of the city workers’ pay raise became a point of contention in negotiations this year, Gutierrez said, after Mayor Javier Gonzales proposed a 5 percent raise for all city employees in his State of the City address in February.

The mayor was forced to backtrack not long after, saying city staff had underestimated the annual cost of the trumpeted raise by about $3 million. He also said the closure of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design — set to vacate city-owned premises on which the city is still paying off millions of dollars in debt — had complicated matters.

“All of us certainly were surprised when the accurate numbers came in,” Gonzales told the Finance Committee in April, adding that the 2 percent substitute proposal was “fair, responsible and a start towards that commitment,” referring to the 5 percent hike.

“It was a battle at the table,” Gutierrez said.

Contact Tripp Stelnicki at 505-428-7626 or tstelnicki@sfnewmexican.com.