After experiencing a $4 million budget cut last year and a lack of pay raises since 2008, employees of the Arizona Department of Public Safety are going to be at least another $8 million deeper in the hole this year, said Jimmy Chavez, president of the Arizona Highway Patrol Association.

According to information from the association, which represents about 700 sworn and non-sworn DPS employees, the department is not facing any budget cuts this year, but with the costs of health care going up for employees and employers, the $8 million increase for about 900 DPS employees will be significant, Chavez said.

The state Legislature has not appropriated any additional expenses for the DPS budget, and the agency has not seen any hires since it held its last training academy in July 2008, according to Chavez.  

In addition to having to foot more out-of-pocket costs and not hiring new officers, DPS staffing levels are down about 200 officers statewide, including about 50 fewer in the Phoenix metropolitan area, according to Chavez.

When $4 million was slashed from the 2010-11 budget, there were 40 civilian jobs and mid-level management jobs eliminated, resulting in 20 layoffs.

“No doubt, our staffing levels are very low and in some rural areas, it’s to a critical point,” Chavez said. “We’re down to bare-bones staffing in some areas. We haven’t been able to replace those who are leaving through attrition.”

The starting annual pay for a DPS patrol officer is $45,000 with the top annual pay going to $60,000.

In the East Valley, there used to be four squads averaging

six to 10 officers on patrol, but now there are three, Chavez said.

“I think in the next year, we’re going to be at a critical level of staffing overall, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better in the near future,” Chavez said.

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