Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews made the following statement today after the Council approved a compensation plan for employees that was recommended by County Executive Isiah Leggett. [The plan was approved by an 8-1 vote, with Councilmember Andrews opposed to the plan.]
The complete text of the statement by Councilmember Andrews:
County employees deserve a pay raise after three years without a step increase and four years without a general wage adjustment, and I support (and proposed in March) a reasonable and sustainable increase in pay of 4-6 percent for county employees for each of the next two years. However, the pay raises of 13.5 percent over two years for most non-public safety county employees; 14.7 percent over two years for most police officers, and 19.5 percent over two years for most career firefighters agreed to by County Executive Leggett and the County Council are excessive, irresponsible and unsustainable. These pay raises will cost taxpayers $31 million in FY14, $73 million in FY15, and $85 million in FY16.
These pay increases are reminiscent of County pay raises approved in 2008 that proved to be unsustainable. In 2008, Mr. Leggett and a majority of the Council agreed to a three-year contract for career firefighters that included a 10.5 percent pay increase in the third year. That contract had to be canceled when it became unaffordable as well as unsustainable.
County Executive Leggett is paying for these excessive raises by proposing that the County keep a huge 2010 increase in the energy tax that he and the County Council promised would be temporary. Montgomery’s energy tax is by far the highest among our neighboring jurisdictions, comprising 10 percent of most residents’ electric bills, and costing many businesses thousands of dollars annually, undermining the County’s competitiveness. At the very least, Montgomery County needs to phase out the 2010 increase. However, Mr. Leggett proposes keeping it.
Reducing the pay increases agreed to by Mr. Leggett by 35 percent, as I proposed last month, would have saved $11.4 million in FY14 and at least that much again in FY15, enabling the County to reduce the 2010 increase in the energy tax by 10 percent in FY14 and by an additional 10 percent in FY15. This would have provided County employees with a reasonable and sustainable pay raise, provided County residents and businesses with relief from an excessive energy tax, made our County’s business climate more competitive, and kept the promise by both Mr. Leggett and the Council that the 2010 energy tax increase would be temporary (the Council did reduce the 2010 increase in the energy tax by 10 percent in FY13).
Montgomery County treats it employees well, as we should. The fact that we do is reflected by our excellent retention rate, and the many qualified applicants that apply for nearly every job opening. During the Great Recession and its aftermath, the County—to its credit—laid off very few employees and did not reduce base wages (although employees were furloughed in 2010, and their share of health care insurance was increased), while many employees in the private sector saw reductions in their pay or lost their jobs. The County has failed to strike the proper balance between what we pay employees and what taxpayers can afford.
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