FLORENCE — Pending legislation would result in hefty pay increases for sheriff’s deputies all over the state, and possibly layoffs as counties struggle to meet the terms of the law, a Pinal County supervisor said.

Pinal County Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, commented Monday against the legislation, known as HB 2541 in the Arizona House and SB 1381 in the Senate. The bills would set deputy starting salaries at no less than 5% below the average starting salary of officers in the two highest-paying departments in the county, including the state Department of Public Safety.

State Reps. Neal Carter, David Cook and Teresa Martinez are among the co-sponsors of the House bill, according the bill’s text from the Legislature.

The bills are identical, which means they could be fast-tracked, Cavanaugh told PinalCentral. A County Supervisors Association analysis indicated the law would trigger average raises of 10% in Pinal County, and raises of 20% or more in Apache, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Mohave, Navajo and Santa Cruz counties.

For detention officers, county salaries could be no less than 10% lower than the average starting salaries of the three highest-paying detention facilities in the state and the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

Cavanaugh said local salaries should be part of a collaborative, informed process at the local level. Most counties are already working with their sheriff’s departments or conducting salary studies to identify where compensation is below-market and how best to address those shortfalls, he said.

“The constitutional role of the Board of Supervisors is to be responsive to taxpayers in setting budgets and salaries best suited to the needs of the respective counties,” Cavanaugh said in a letter to local legislators. “I can envision a number of ways these well-intentioned proposals could negatively impact sheriff’s offices throughout the state.”

If agencies must cut staff to afford new salaries mandated by law, it will amount to “an unintentional ‘Defund the Police,’” Cavanaugh wrote.


Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

(2) comments


Cut the administrative fat at County offices and you'll find all sorts of funds for deputy raises, Mr. Supervisor.


Just chiming in to see if this helps people see what is needed. I wish it were as simple as "trimming the fat." Pinal is understaffed in nearly all of its state-mandated departments as are the other less populated counties. This is one reason why "trimming the fat" is difficult. Why are they understaffed? Very few skilled workers want to travel 1 to 2 hours from home to make 60-80 percent of the salaries they could make working in Pima or Maricopa county. The state used to help pay for these job positions but then cut that support about 8 years ago leaving counties to front the bill. Another reason why trimming the fat is hard is that the state and federal government require counties to have a number of pointless job positions and departments. Air Quality is an example of a pointless department where counties are required to staff and support. You can't just "trim the fat" and cut those positions without being in violation of federal or state laws. What we really need is a restructuring and simplification of what is required of the counties so that they can run leaner. Don't get me wrong. The pay raise for PCSO is necessary and important, but the state should also help the counties cut the fat by removing unnecessary departments they mandate the counties to keep on the books. Just my thoughts as a person who worked for years at the county.

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