For the first time in three years, Montgomery County employees will get a raise.
The County Council approved, in an 8-1 vote Tuesday, a package of cost-of-living, step and longevity pay raises for all eligible employees at a cost of about $32.77 million in fiscal 2014 that was proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and negotiated with the county’s three unions.
Councilman Philip M. Andrews was the lone “no” vote.
Before a room filled with county employees, Andrews stood alone against the Leggett’s proposed pay raises.
Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg said he supported raising pay, but at a rate that was “not excessive.”
Andrews said he favored a 4 to 6 percent pay raise in one year, arguing it would have been reasonable, sustainable and favorable.
“It’s better to have steady, modest pay increases year after year, that are reliable, than to have these big peaks then nothing,” he said.
In a statement released minutes after the vote Tuesday, Leggett commended the council for its decision.
“It was the right thing to do,” Leggett said in the statement.
Revenue shortfalls during the Great Recession forced the county to implement a mix of pay freezes, layoffs, benefit contribution increase and furloughs to save the county $469 million.
Each employee gave up an average of $30,000 in a pay during the years of employee cost savings measures, with police and firefighters saying they gave up even more.
As a result of the last three years, employee morale is low, said Gino Renne, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers/Municipal and County Government Employees Organization Local 1994.
“This is a big boost,” Renne said. “It gives them hope.”
Renne congratulated members and thanked them for their sacrifices.
“This is long overdue and well deserved,” he said on Thursday, when the council’s fiscal committee recommended supporting the raises. “You and your families have been through some tough times, made enormous sacrifices that helped get the county back in good fiscal health, but I’m happy to say this is just the beginning of getting us out of those bad times.”
Acknowledging that the council reserved its right to consider future pay increases during the budget, Renne said he reminded employees that the raises approved Tuesday were only for one year.
Most employees will get a 3.25 percent cost-of-living adjustment or general wage increase, including those not represented by a union or who are management. Police will see a 2.1 percent increase and fire and rescue service a 2.75 percent increase. For employees eligible for increment or step increases, those will be paid at 3.5 percent.
For police and for fire and rescue employees who did not receive increments due them in the past, the county will pay some of those steps retroactively. Police who were eligible for a step in fiscal 2011, 2012 or 2013 will receive a 1.75 percent increment starting the first full pay period of February 2014. Fire and rescue workers who were eligible for a step in fiscal 2011 will receive a 3.5 percent increment the first full pay period in April 2014.
Eligible employees at the top of their pay grade will receive a 3.5 percent longevity increase.