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WSSC workers to get raises as customers pay higher rates

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County,Prince Georges County

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect corrections to the size of the WSSC rate increase and its budget, and to clarify that utility workers, not county employees, will be receiving raises.

Workers at Montgomery and Prince George's counties' water and sewer provider will receive 3 percent pay raises in July as customers face higher rates.

Members of the Montgomery and Prince George's county councils unanimously approved a rate increase of 7.25 percent for fiscal 2014, which starts July 1, expected to cost an average $60 a year. The utility has raised rates every year since fiscal 2005. From fiscal 2009 to fiscal 2012, rates increased between 8 and 9 percent.

WSSC employees not at the top of their pay grade will receive a 3 percent raise. The raises will cost about $3.4 million out of the commission's $1.5 billion budget.

WSSC spokesman Jim Neustadt said employees received a 2 percent increase in fiscal 2013, but salaries were frozen before that.

The budgets for the jointly operated WSSC, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Washington Suburban Transportation Commission were approved within minutes with no debate among any of the council members.

Prince George's County Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison, D-Bladensburg, said officials from Montgomery and Prince George's counties worked for months on hammering out the details of the joint services. She said because the counties are about the same size and are next to each other, many issues affect both jurisdictions, such as the recession and employee pay freezes.

"We share so many common issues, and not just [those addressed by] the three agencies we deal with," said Harrison.

She said the staffs work as they're combing through their individual budgets to determine what is in the best interest for both counties.

The rate increases will go toward fixing the WSSC's aging infrastructure, some of which has caused Montgomery County Council members to criticize the utility recently. Last month, Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, called WSSC officials in front of a council committee to discuss a water main break in Chevy Chase on Connecticut Avenue that caused headaches for drivers and placed a water restriction on residents for almost a week.

Prince George's County had set a limit on the increase at 7.5 percent, while Montgomery County opted for an 8 percent cap. The two and the WSSC settled on the 7.25 percent rate increase.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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