Cash-strapped Montgomery County would give workers 13.5 percent raises

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County

Montgomery County employees are slated to receive a 13.5 percent pay raise under the terms of a new two-year contract that would cost the cash-strapped county $11.3 million just in the first year.

The tentative agreement, negotiated between County Executive Ike Leggett and the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, or MCGEO, would give most of its more than 5,000 workers 6.75 percent cost-of-living and longevity raises, with increases each of the next two years.

The county is facing a $134 million shortfall in fiscal 2014, assuming no raises for workers. All county departments already are looking at budget cuts of 5 percent.

Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield didn't say where potential funding would come from for the contract, but he said Leggett is committed to giving employees what they deserve. He also said the executive is dedicated to closing the budget gap in front of him. Leggett -- who is rumored to be running for a third term as county executive -- worked more than four months on the contract negotiations.

Contract highlights
13.5 percent pay raise, which includes:
» 3 percent longevity increment in fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015.
» 3.25 percent cost-of-living raise.
» 5-cent hourly increase for seasonal workers.
» $1,338 clothing allowance for deputy sheriffs.
» Tuition assistance earmarked at 50 percent for MCGEO members.
» Departments must develop policies to restrict public access to employee work areas.

"Of course the budget that we approve -- the budget that we recommend on March 15 -- will be balanced," he said.

County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large, said she wondered how Leggett would pay for the contract.

"I'm curious as to how that fits within the scheme of things," she said.

The school system also is asking for $10 million more than the funding required under state law, which would mean even more cuts -- or tax increases -- to balance the budget.

Last year, the council approved property tax increases to close the budget gap for the current fiscal year, as well as extended an increased energy tax for businesses and residents that was supposed to expire on June 31, 2012.

But MCGEO President Gino Renne pointed out that county workers have not received raises in four years and had to take furloughs during the recession, and they deserve the higher pay. Last year, employees received a one-time $2,000 lump sum bonus.

The public school system gave its employees 3.4 percent raises last year when the school system found a last-minute surplus.

"[School employees] are getting raises, and [union employees are] not, but yet [they're] paid from the same checkbook," he said.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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Author:

Kate Jacobson

Montgomery County reporter
The Washington Examiner