About 9,400 current and former members of the government's Senior Executive Service, most of whom live in this area, will get payments next March ranging from $1,500 to $5,900 to settle a long-standing pay dispute with the government.

The final chapter in the back pay battle was outlined Friday by attorneys for the government and the executives. It was part of their status report to U.S. District Court Judge John Reynolds in Milwaukee, where the bitter legal fight between Uncle Sam and the high-ranking federal workers began years ago.

The payments, which represent parts of pay raises denied executives in fiscal years 1980 and 1981, are expected to be mailed out by the Treasury in March to SES members and retired executives who were on the payroll in those years.

The maximum payments of $5,900 will go to SES members in Levels 4, 5 and 6, where most of the executives are concentrated. SES members in Level 3 will get up to $1,500 each.

Base salary for SES members, which ranges from $61,296 to $72,300 a year, will not be changed by the one-shot payments.

Still to be decided by Reynolds is the issue of attorneys' fees, disputed payments for SES members in Levels 1, 2 and 3, and whether interest will be added to the back payments.

The back pay case resulted from a series of "caps" Congress imposed on executive salaries in the 1980s. The caps meant executives didn't get the same percentage pay raises granted 1.2 million rank-and-file civil servants.

A group of SES executives with the National Labor Relations Board in Milwaukee took the case to court. They contended that Congress had acted improperly by capping salaries for several years. The court upheld pay caps imposed in two years, but agreed with the executives that caps for fiscal years 1980 and 1981 were improper, and ordered the government to give eligible executives back pay.

Appeals by the government -- on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction over federal pay matters -- dragged the case out until April of this year. That is when the Supreme Court ended the legal drama by refusing to hear the government's appeal.

All that was left to the government then was to go back to the Milwaukee court and work out details of the back pay and settle some peripheral issues still in dispute.

Lawyers Kevin Ford and Richard Prendergast of Chicago are also asking that the government be required to pay interest on the delayed back pay -- equal to the interest on Treasury bills -- since December 1984, when the Milwaukee court entered a judgment in favor of the executives.

The Office of Personnel Management has already contacted persons who were on the SES rolls. About 8,000 of the 9,400 estimated beneficiaries have returned confirmation forms to OPM.

In some cases, the back pay settlement will raise pensions slightly for some retired executives.