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In this 2018 file photo, Kern Law Enforcement Association members fill the Board of Supervisors meeting to bring attention to the low retention rate in the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors finally sealed the deal on a one-year agreement with the Kern Law Enforcement Association, making deputies among the highest paid in the Central Valley.

In a 5-0 vote, supervisors on Sept. 17 approved the new contract. The Sheriff’s Office has been operating without a contract in place for its deputies since the beginning of 2018.

With the new contract, the county attempts to fix a recruitment and retention issue that has left many within the Sheriff’s Office upset at workplace conditions.

Negotiations between supervisors and the union had been stymied over the past year and a half by deputies’ demands for higher pay, and the county’s own budget struggles.

After finally approving the new contract, Supervisor Leticia Perez said she hoped the new contract was a step in the right direction.

“I think this is incredible progress by this body, more than I have seen in my time here, and I think that is good for this county,” she said.

The $3.2 million contract made several concessions to the union, while withholding certain requests put forward by KLEA leaders.

The contract raises salaries of all deputies from 0.5 percent to 10 percent, and includes a $10,000 signing bonus spread over four years for new recruits.

While the county claims that the new contract will make KLEA members the highest paid law enforcement officers in the county, it was met with less enthusiasm by the union.

Earlier this month, KLEA approved the contract by 230 to 200, a narrow margin for an agreement that offers a wide range of salary increases.

At the time of the vote, union president Richard Anderson said KLEA members wanted to stick by veteran deputies who will receive low raises of 1 percent when compared with the double digit increases of some new employees.

The contract retroactively goes into effect Sept. 14, and will continue through June 30, 2020.

“These changes are crucial and necessary to assist the Sheriff’s Office in retaining and recruiting staff in all of its KLEA-represented classifications,” Chief Human Resources Officer Devin Brown wrote in a report to supervisors.

Several other changes like four additional paid days off and a $400 uniform allowance were also included in the contract.

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