Thousands of federal supervisors and managers -- including many of the 50,000 Grade 13, 14 and 15 people here -- will be getting special merit-pay raises ranging from $8 to $16 a week sometime this fall. The before-taxes raises are retroactive to early October.

The raises are part of a complicated new system the government is introducing to give supervisors-managers performance-based pay in lieu of automatic longevity that other white collar civil servants get. The merit raises, which some agencies will begin paying out this month, are in addition to the 4.8 percent general pay raise that is effective this month for nearly all white collar government workers.

Under the original merit-pay plan worked up by the Office of Personnel Management (part of the Civil Service Reform Act) U.S. supervisors-managers this year would have been guaranteed only half (or 2.4 percent) of the regular October general civil service pay increase.

OPM's funding formula would have permitted agencies to give supervisors and managers rated "fully satisfactory" up to "outstanding" additional merit raises -- on top of the 2.4 percent guaranteed them -- of between $37 and $72 a week. Officials expected that the majority of the 125,000 people under the new merit-pay system would have gotten raises equal to or higher than the general 4.8 percent federal increase.

But the General Accounting Office shot down the original OPM funding formula, saying it was too generous. OPM then decided to give merit pay personnel the same 4.8 percent raise other workers will get, but trim back the size of actual merit-pay raises.

OPM's original plan would have allowed agencies to give outstanding supervisors-managers merit raises of up to 9.4 percent and raises of 4.6 percent for those rated fully satisfactory. Those increases would have been on top of the 2.4 percent automatic increase for the entire 125,000-member supervisory-management group. With the GAO ruling, however, persons under merit pay this year will get actual merit increases ranging from 1 percent to 2 percent, although they will also get the full 4.8 percent going to other workers.

All this means that supervisors-managers this year will get more money up front, that is the full 4.8 percent raise, but smaller merit increases. Next October, OPM hopes to have merit pay fully operational, meaning that supervisors-managers will be guaranteed only half of the regular civil service adjustment, but they will have a shot at much larger merit raises.

Effective Oct. 1, supervisors and managers under the merit-pay system are not eligible for automatic longevity pay raises -- worth about 3 percent -- that go routinely to other workers. Those increases come every one, two or three years, depending on the employe's length of service.