A Montgomery County Council committee offered a friendly reception Monday to at least part of County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposed package of salary increases — the first in three years — for police, firefighters and most other employees.
During the recession, the county froze cost-of-living adjustments and step increases, in addition to asking workers to pay more for health and retirement benefits. The two-year contracts negotiated by Leggett would give double-digit pay increases to members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 (14.7 percent) , the International Association of Firefighters Local 1664 (19.5 percent) and the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization Local 1994 (13.5 percent). Leggett said the county could have ended up paying more had collective bargaining reached an impasse and gone to an arbitrator.
The council is only allowed to consider one year of the contract at a time. Members of the council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee seemed favorably disposed to the plan, which would cost $31.6 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Members cited figures showing that salary freezes, furloughs and elimination of jobs during the lean years saved the county an estimated $469 million.
“When you look at those numbers ... to me it speaks to the fact that our employees in Montgomery County government really stepped up to the plate,” said council President Nancy Navarro (D-Midcounty).
“I believe we can afford contracts of this scope,” said council member Hans Riemer (D- At Large), drawing applause from union members in the audience.
The only cautionary note was sounded by council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), who said that approval of the contract’s second year could be placed at risk by other spending demands, especially from the school system.
“The news sounds good for the moment,” Ervin said.
The committee will vote on the raises this week before they go to the full council for a vote.