The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to increase entry-level sheriff’s deputy pay by 18.5 percent at a meeting March 12 in an attempt to stop deputies from leaving the Sheriff’s Office at high rates.

For many years, deputies have complained of low pay, and senior Sheriff’s Office officials have said that many new deputies choose to be trained by the department only to leave after their training is complete for other agencies that offer higher pay.

Currently, entry-level deputies earn around $45,000 per year. The raise will take their pay to around $53,000 annually in minimum base salary.

For comparison, county officials said an entry-level Bakersfield Police Department officer earns around $58,000 a year.

However, deputies are eligible to receive a 4 percent increase in their salary for meeting fitness benchmarks that BPD officers are not eligible for, county officials said at the meeting.

Deputies also can earn salary increases for obtaining certain certifications that the county says will bring entry-level deputies close to pay parity with the competing police department.

“We fully admit that this is not going to solve the problem completely,” said Kern County Chief Human Resources Officer Devin Brown, referring to the Sheriff’s Office’s retention struggles. “But this is a large step in the right direction.”

A total of 58 deputies are expected to be impacted by the raises, although as many as 30 of them are scheduled to automatically receive a pay increase near the time the county’s new raise will take place, according to the deputies’ union, the Kern Law Enforcement Association.

KLEA President Richard Anderson cautioned supervisors that they were not likely to prevent deputies with between one and three years experience from being poached by other law enforcement agencies.

“We have to fix this issue or we’re just going to keep hemorrhaging money,” he said, referring to the costs associated with recruiting and training new deputies.

The pay increase is expected to cost the county $210,773 this year.

As the Bakersfield Police Department begins a three-year process to hire 100 new officers, the county hopes the new raise will prevent deputies from jumping ship.

But Kern County Taxpayers Association Executive Director Michael Turnipseed said the county could have difficulty filling its vacancies even with the raise.

“These problems are not going to get better,” he said, adding that police academies across the state were having difficulty filling seats.