ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. -- The Orange County Deputies' Union is demanding raises from the sheriff's office, even though no other county workers will see raises this year. The impasse has halted contract negotiations.
The deputies who patrol the streets are not just in a battle against crime, they are now in a battle over money with their sheriff.
"What the sheriff is offering is not to pay you what you're due," said the head of Central Fla. PBA, John Park.
Central Fla. PBA is the union representing the deputies. Two years ago, deputies were given raises, a cost of living adjustment and what they call step-pay or merit pay. However, last year and this current fiscal year they did not receive raises.
But they're not alone. The county put a hold on all raises, because it couldn't afford them.
"How can you justify raises when no other county employees are getting raises?" WFTV reporter Jeff Deal asked Park.
"The whole comparison game of, 'Well, deputies shouldn't get raises because nobody's getting raises' doesn't fly," he replied.
Park believes the dangers of the job make the merit pay they had received for 34 years straight necessary. He said it would amount to a 3-percent raise and believes the county can afford it.
Park also points to the sheriff giving back nearly $6 million to the county over the last two years.
No one from the sheriff's office responded to WFTV's questions, but in an email from the sheriff to employees he explained he received some of that money back to pay for rising fuel costs and new patrol cars.
The sheriff said the budget challenges have made it impractical to provide merit increases; they could even lead to forced layoffs, if the county cuts the sheriff's budget again.
The sheriff has offered a $1,100 bonus, but the union wants guaranteed salary increases. They expect this will have to be decided by a mediator in a couple months.