January brings the annual pay raise, and March brings the final pay table.

Blame the delay on last year's budget impasse and this year's slow grinding of the administrative gears. Regardless, and in keeping with a long Federal Diary tradition, today's column features the General Schedule salary chart for the Washington-Baltimore area.

The pay table includes a retroactive "locality pay" increase, ordered by President Bush last week, that will provide Washington area employees with a 4.27 percent pay raise this year.

With the salary increase, the average General Schedule salary rises to $72,670 in the Washington area, according to a preliminary calculation by the Office of Personnel Management. In the contiguous 48 states, the average General Schedule salary will hit $58,051, according to a rough estimate.

Retirees, who received a 1.4 percent cost-of-living adjustment this year, will be eligible for the retroactive increase if they left the government after the start of the first pay period.

When and in what form the raise shows up in paychecks will be decided by agencies and their payroll processing centers, an OPM spokesman said. OPM has urged agency personnel officers to move as quickly as possible to make the retroactive payments, the spokesman said.

Don't Forget the Pets

Kay Coles James, the OPM director, continues to step up federal efforts to inform federal employees about steps they may take to deal with the possible threat of terrorist attack.

Yesterday, OPM published "A Federal Employee's Family Preparedness Guide" that offers advice on how families can create emergency response plans and pull together material for an "emergency go kit." In addition to advice on schools and drug prescriptions, Page 3 of the guide includes a checklist that begins, "If You Have Pets."

The guide (at www.opm.gov/emergency/ ) joins two manuals prepared by OPM that provide general guidelines for dealing with an accidental or intentional release of chemical, biological or radiological material. About 180,000 copies of the two manuals have been downloaded from OPM's Internet site since being posted March 12.

On Tuesday, James and Mike Byrne, director of the office for National Capital Region coordination at the Department of Homeland Security, briefed federal unions and employee groups on procedures that can enhance workplace safety in case of a terrorist attack, an OPM official said.

Joining in the discussion were Gilbert Jamieson, director of the program coordination division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Donald Williams, the National Capital Region administrator for the General Services Administration, and Anthony Costa, GSA's assistant regional administrator with the agency's Public Buildings Service.

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