With no objection from Montgomery County Council’s fiscal committee, county employees moved one step closer Thursday to seeing their pay go up this July, the start of fiscal 2014.
“Congratulations,” Gino Renne, president of the county’s general employees union, told members gathered for the committee meeting. “This is long overdue and well deserved. You and your families have been through some tough times, made enormous sacrifices that helped get the county back in good fiscal health, but I’m happy to say this is just the beginning of getting us out of those bad times.” The County Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee unanimously backed County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposed package of pay raises, suggesting that the full council do the same. The council is scheduled to vote on the recommendation Tuesday.
However, the committee’s recommendation does not automatically ensure the same raises will happen in fiscal 2015.
Recently negotiated union agreements provide the same increases again in fiscal 2015, but the council still has to approve that money. The committee recommended the council reserve the right in the next fiscal year to determine the appropriation for employee pay in fiscal 2015.
Leggett (D) has proposed a package of cost-of-living, step and longevity pay raises for all eligible employees at a cost of about $32.77 million in fiscal 2014, according to information presented Monday by Council Staff Director Stephen B. Farber.
Council President Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring, who chairs the Government Operations committee, said employees’ sacrifices the past three years enabled the county to now offer a package of pay increases.
Pay freezes, layoffs, unpaid furlough days and increases in employee benefit contributions saved the county $469 million between fiscal 2010 and 2013 and will continue to save the county $156 million annually, according to figures provided by Leggett’s office.
But Renne, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization Local 1994, said it was solidarity among the county’s three unions that made the wage increases a likely reality.
Leggett has recommended a 3.25 percent cost-of-living adjustment or general wage increase for most employees, including those not represented by a union or who are management. For police, he has recommended a 2.1 percent increase and for fire and rescue service, a 2.75 percent increase. For employees eligible for increment or step increases, Leggett has proposed those be paid at 3.5 percent.
For police and for fire and rescue employees who did not receive increments due them in the past, Leggett is recommending the county pay some of those steps retroactively. Police who were eligible for a step in fiscal 2011, 2012 or 2013 will receive a 1.75 percent increment starting the first full pay period of February 2014. Fire and rescue workers who were eligible for a step in fiscal 2011 will receive a 3.5 percent increment the first full pay period in April 2014.
For eligible employees at the top of their pay grade, Leggett also recommends paying 3.5 percent longevity increases.
“We don’t ask for any more than we deserve and we deserve every bit that we got and absolutely a little bit more than what we got,” Torrie Cooke, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35, said. “But we can settle for this and get the rest later.”
Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Takoma Park warned that the days of 10 percent annual budget increases are over, calling the raises and proposed budget growth “slow growth.”
Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring warned that fiscal 2015, 2016 and 2017 remain uncertain for employees, as the county will have to balance mounting challenges of mandatory education spending and teacher pension costs.