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Federal Diary

Most Washington Area Government Workers to Get 3.71% Raises for New Year

By Stephen Barr
Monday, January 3, 2005; Page B02

The 2005 pay tables were posted on New Year's Eve, showing that most federal employees in the Washington-Baltimore area will see a raise of 3.71 percent in paychecks issued near the end of the month.

The percentage increase, although more than the president proposed initially, was not as high as those in recent years. In 2000, for example, Washington area employees received a 4.94 percent raise. Last year, the annual raise was 4.42 percent here.

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Federal Diary Page

The pay scale for General Schedule employees in the Washington area ranges from $18,575 to $135,136 this year. A popular grade in this area, GS-13, offers salaries of $74,782 to $97,213.

The average Washington area annual salary for GS employees will rise to $78,005, and the average worldwide for GS employees will be $60,203, said Donald J. Winstead, deputy associate director for pay and performance policy at the Office of Personnel Management.

President Bush signed an executive order in Crawford, Tex., on Dec. 30 that triggered publication of the pay tables by the Office of Personnel Management on its Web site, www.opm.gov, and a memo to agency heads by Kay Coles James, the OPM director.

Congress approved an average 3.5 percent raise for the government's 1.8 million white-collar workers -- 2 percentage points higher than Bush recommended -- as part of the fiscal 2005 omnibus spending bill. Bush's executive order split the increase into two components: a 2.5 percent across-the-board raise and an additional 1 percent of the federal payroll for "locality pay" raises that vary by metropolitan area.

Under the locality pay formula, 10 areas will receive higher raises than the 3.71 percent provided Washington-Baltimore employees. They are:

Boston, 3.81 percent; Chicago, 3.75 percent; Denver, 3.73 percent; Hartford, Conn., 3.93 percent; Houston, 3.86 percent; Los Angeles, 3.87 percent; New York, 3.96 percent; San Diego, 3.84 percent; San Francisco, 4.3 percent; and Seattle, 3.76 percent.

Thirty-one metropolitan areas have been designated as locality zones. GS employees who work outside those 31 areas fall into the "rest of the U.S." category and will receive a 3.26 percent pay raise, the lowest increase.

The boundaries of several locality pay areas are expanding next Sunday, the start of the year's first pay period for most GS employees. About 17,000 employees in the "rest of the U.S." category will move into locality areas with higher rates, including about 2,000 employees who are shifting into the Washington area locality zone.

The Washington zone, which stretches from Southern Maryland to West Virginia, will reach into Pennsylvania, picking up Adams and York counties, for example.

The larger boundaries for the Washington area mean that the 2,000 newly incorporated employees are getting a raise of about 7.2 percent this year, Winstead said.

The president's order also adjusted pay scales for the military, Foreign Service officers, members of the Senior Executive Service, administration law judges and others.

Congress approved an average raise of 3.5 percent for military personnel, and Bush's order provided for an across-the-board increase of 2.5 percent in base pay for the Foreign Service and certain pay scales used by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The government's 6,000 career executives shifted last year to a performance-based pay system that no longer guarantees them annual raises or locality adjustments. Bush administration officials have suggested that this could become a model for other categories of employees.

Under the president's order, agencies with a certified performance appraisal system may pay their executives $107,550 to $162,100 annually. If an agency does not have a certified system for evaluating the job performance of executives, it can pay no more than $149,200.

Because of previous congressional freezes on executive pay and a statutory cap on their pay, about 80 percent of SES members earn about $145,600 annually.

Administrative law judges will see their rates of basic pay increase by 2.5 percent. Their base pay scale will range from $93,500 to $140,300, according to the executive order.

In an earlier memo, James announced that federal employees covered by the 398 special pay schedules will receive a 2.5 percent increase. Agencies offer special pay rates to employees who are in high demand or hold critical skills in technology and other technical fields.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com

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