Missoula County approves $4.4M obligation bond to cover sheriff deputies’ wage claim
Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
Roughly two months after settling a wage claim with Missoula County sheriff's deputies, county commissions on Tuesday approved a $4.4 million general obligation bond to cover the judgment.
“We settled at $3.4 million but encountered an additional $500,000 in employment related taxes and benefits surrounding the wage claim,” said Andrew Czorny, the county's chief financial officer. “It includes some of the costs of issuance.”
Commissioners in June reluctantly approved the $3.4 million settlement stemming from the wage claim brought by current and prior deputies with the Missoula County Sheriff's Department.
According to Erica Grinde, the county's director of risk and benefits, deputies allege they were entitled to three years' worth of unpaid wages based upon the earnings of the county sheriff and his additional pay earned through special certification.
The suit was filed in January and claimed the county failed to calculate deputy pay based upon the full amount of the sheriff's pay, as required by Montana law. Under state law, deputy pay is closely tied to the sheriff's pay, and when the sheriff's pay increases for whatever reason, pay earned by the deputies must follow suit.
Now, the county is turning to the taxpayers to cover the judgment.
“We'll put this as a judgment levy on the tax roll,” Czorny said. “In the first year, the debt service will be around $795,000 and in years two through five it will be $896,000.”
Czorny said the settlement amounts to around $4.5 per $100,000 of home value, or $15.95 for a home valued at the median price of $500,000. The fee will remain on the taxes for five years.
County legal experts called the settlement “significant” in that it found early resolution, thus saving financial resources and maintaining relationships within the sheriff's department. Still, commissioners expressed displeasure back in June when approving the settlement.
“There's something that seems not quite right about, from a statutory standpoint, that someone would earn certification pay themselves and get a cut of someone else's certification pay,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier.