A bill to freeze the salaries of Montgomery County employes has sparked a battle between the employes, who say they are financially strapped, and the bill's sponsor, councilman David L. Scull, who said he is trying to bring their salaries in line with surrounding counties.
Eight-hundred 55 employes already have signed petitions against the measure, which is set for public hearing next month.
"We are really just trying to make both ends meet and better ourselves," said Jack Jardeleza, 56, a $30,000 a year auditor in the county's finance department. Jardeleza has four children and his wife wants to stop working to earn a graduate school degree.
Scull's bill would freeze the top pay grade salaries of all county employes at their fiscal 1982 levels for one year.
The measure was prompted, Scull said, by reports showing that Montgomery County pays disproportionately higher salaries and benefits to its 5,500 employes than other Washington area governments.
Scull said that county task force reports showed that " . . . it is unnecessary to pay as much as we do."
His bill would permit cost-of-living increases, but only if they did not push salaries beyond the top pay grade of a given profession. Currently, the council is obligated to approve full cost-of-living increases for all employes unless the increases would cause severe financial problems and layoffs.
The strongest objections to the bill are from those who are at the top of their pay grades and depend on the yearly cost-of-living increases, which are based on 75 percent of the area's consumer price index.
"I've been at the county for 16 years. I'm already at the top of my pay grade and all I have to look forward to is the . . . CPI increase," said Jardeleza. "Times are rough."
Scull said that his bill would save the county $900,000 in fiscal 1983.
Statistics from Arthur Spengler, deputy staff director for the county council, indicate that county salaries in Montgomery exceed those in Prince George's County by 26 percent, surpass Arlington County by 22 percent, the District of Columbia by 17 percent and Fairfax County, by 9.4 percent.
Thelma Burke, president of the Montgomery County Employes Organization, which claims 2,500 members, said that county employes will fight the bill. "We all know that times are hard and the war cry is money," Burke said.
Because the bill is an emergency measure, five of the seven council members must approve it. Most members said the issue is a ticklish one. "The real fact of life isn't sex," said Councilwoman Rose Crenca. "It's food, clothing and shelter."