If the stars stay aligned, civil service employees in the Washington area would receive a 3.44 percent pay raise next year.

The forecast for the 2006 compensation constellation assumes that Congress will deliver a 3.1 percent average raise and that the White House will accept yesterday's recommendation from the Federal Salary Council to break the raise into two parts -- a 2.1 percent across-the-board increase and a 1 percent increase in locality pay.

The Washington area raise would be slightly higher than the proposed average because the salary council, an advisory group, recommended that locations with the largest "pay gaps" receive the largest increases.

The council relies on the Bureau of Labor Statistics for data on labor markets in 31 metropolitan areas and for a category called "rest of the United States." Officials at BLS and the Office of Personnel Management use the data to calculate how much federal pay lags behind the private sector in various locations after matching occupations. The methodology has been controversial and has not been fully followed by this and previous administrations.

If the recommendations are followed, federal employees in Raleigh, N.C., would receive a 5.62 percent raise; Buffalo, N.Y., workers would see a 3.75 percent increase; and San Francisco area employees would be in line for a 3.95 percent increase.

The predicted increases for Raleigh and Buffalo include something of a catch-up raise, because the administration had agreed to designate the two cities and Phoenix as locality pay areas for next year. Phoenix would be in line for a 2.95 percent raise, according to the data released at the council's meeting.

Three other metropolitan areas -- Kansas City, St. Louis and Orlando -- are scheduled to lose their locality designation and will merge back into the catchall category "rest of the United States," or RUS. For next year, the three cities will get slightly less than the RUS increase of 2.83 percent.

According to the salary council, the overall average pay gap this year is 13.37 percent. The calculation takes into account the extra salary that comes from locality adjustments.

In most years, the recommendations of the Federal Salary Council are accepted by the president's pay advisers -- Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, Elaine L. Chao, Labor secretary, and Linda M. Springer, director of OPM. The president typically issues an executive order on federal pay after Congress has approved the raise for the coming year.

Yesterday's meeting of the Federal Salary Council was convened by its chairman, Terri Lacy, a Houston lawyer who was appointed by President Bush. Other members include Mary M. Rose, the vice chairman; Rudy J. Maestas of the New Mexico Department of Labor; Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union; Richard N. Brown of the National Federation of Federal Employees; Thomas Bastas of the Association of Civilian Technicians; and James Pasco of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The House has voted for a 3.1 percent average raise, effective in January. The Senate could vote as soon as this week for the same size increase. Bush recommended a 2.3 percent raise, but congressional leaders decided to go with a larger raise to maintain "pay parity" with military personnel.

Less for MaxHR

House and Senate negotiators have approved $30 million for a new personnel system, known as MaxHR, at the Department of Homeland Security. Administration officials initially sought $53 million for the system in fiscal 2006.

Larry Orluskie, a department spokesman, said the new system "should have the resources we need to move forward." The department, he said, had previously modified some of its plans, including delaying the start of new pay practices by a year.

The National Treasury Employees Union opposes the new system and had lobbied Congress to reduce funding, contending that the department has more pressing priorities.

GSA Head to Leave

Stephen A. Perry, who has served as administrator of the General Services Administration since 2001, announced his resignation yesterday and said he would leave at the end of the month. In a statement, he said he and his wife would return to their home town of Canton, Ohio.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com