The Montgomery County Council approved a package of salary increases Tuesday for most employees and senior managers, ending a series of lean years triggered by the Great Recession.
With little debate, the council voted to award raises averaging between 7 percent and 10 percent for most police, fire and general non-uniform employees for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The pay hikes, a combination of cost-of-living and step increases, total about $32 million. They represent the front end of two-year contracts negotiated by County Executive Isiah Leggett with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1664, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 and the Municipal and County Government Employees Organization Local 1994. The council is permitted to consider only one year at a time.
Leggett (D) said the raises were justified by the sacrifices county workers made during the last three years in the form of furloughs and wage freezes. He also contended that the county faced the possibility of paying more if contract talks reached impasses and went to arbitration.
“It was the right thing to do,” Leggett said in a statement Tuesday.
Council President Nancy Navarro said it was only fair that workers benefit as times slowly improve. “Everybody worked together very well to get us to this point,” she said.
The raises passed by an 8-1 vote, with Council member Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg) the lone dissenter. Andrews said the hikes were unreasonable and may not be sustainable should the economy regress. He reiterated his proposal to cut the financial package by 35 percent and use the $11.4 million in savings to roll back the 2010 increase in the county energy tax by 10 percent. The council and Leggett had agreed that the increase would sunset in 2012.
Andrews, a candidate for county executive in 2014, said Leggett's package does not take the interests of tax payers into account.
“A lot of government is about getting the right balance,” Andrews said. “The proposed pay raises that County Executive Leggett agreed to do not get that balance right.”
The council also approved Leggett’s proposal to increase pay for the county’s 376 senior managers. Members of the “management leadership service” will receive a 3.25 cost-of- living adjustment and some would be eligible for an additional 3.5 percent based on performance.
County officials said Leggett wanted move top managerial pay closer to salaries at the federal level.