The Prince George’s Council has agreed to consider a 2 percent pay raise for about 1800 county unionized employees, whose contracts were approved by former County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) but never sent to the council for final action.
The fate of the pay hike, which would cost the county about $1.6 million annually, is far from certain. County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said the county can’t afford the raises, and the council did not take a formal position Tuesday when the members agreed to hold a hearing on the proposal.
Union officials are irate that the contract is in doubt.
“A lot of these employees live paycheck to paycheck,” said Glen Middleton, international vice prsident of Council 67 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the county workers. “We negotiated in good faith.”
The affected workers are employed in various county agencies. Their pay varies substantially, from a low of $15,000 per year to as much as $106,600 per year.
Last year’s council approved a pay hike for this year’s council that could raise council salaries in December. Currently, council members, who are considered part-time, are paid $96,417, the highest in Maryland. Council salaries, and that of the executive, which is $174,540, would increase in December if the consumer price index goes up.
Baker has said the county cannot afford any raises, and said he is worried that approving the contract would open the door to pay increases for other county employees. His staff estimated that could total $12 million annually, the equivalent of the council’s annual budget, or the annual county contribution to the budget of the state’s attorney, the chief prosecutor.
“Who is giving a pay raise in a down economy?” Baker said after the council announced it would hold a public hearing May 11 on the contracts.
Bradley W. Frome, Baker’s deputy chief of staff, told the council “this is a cost we simply cannot bear.” He cited decreased revenues from lower property tax collections, and about $14 million in expenses the state is pushing down to the localities. He said Baker’s administration soon would provide a list of cuts that would need to be made in Baker’s he $2.7 billion budget proposal to fund the proposed pay increases.