Revised budget would enhance county raises Deal would ensure minimum $400 rise


County Executive Charles I. Ecker said Friday he will restructure his fiscal 1993 operating budget proposal to ensure that satisfactory employees receive a raise of at least $400.

The new proposal was worked out Thursday afternoon in consultation with Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, and representatives from the county budget and personnel offices. Ecker and Gray will co-sponsor an amendment Monday to include the $400 floor.

Although the budget Ecker sent the County Council on April 20 was intended to provide something for everybody, it fell short. Sixty-four employees who were at top scale and had been with the county less than 12 years would not have received anything.

Many others, who because the anniversary of their employment comes late in the fiscal year, would have received less than $100 from the 2.5 percent raise that Ecker proposed for employees whose work was deemed satisfactory by their superiors.

Because the raises were to take effect on the anniversary of each worker's employment, some would have received raises as little as $9. About 1,000 of the county's 1,651 employees would have received raises of less than $400.

If the council approves the new plan Monday, employees whose raises would otherwise amount to less than $400 would be given a lump sum, one-time-only payment in the second half of the next fiscal year to bring their raises up to $400.

Ecker said the restructuring would not require new revenues. The proposal could cost $100,000 to $150,000 more than originally planned, but that money probably would come from contingency reserves, said budget director Raymond S. Wacks. The pay proposal will also include library and Howard Community College workers, Wacks said. The public school system is asking for incremental increases of 2.5 percent to 3 percent that would take effect July 1.

Before Ecker's revision, many non-school system employees expressed discontent with the pay raise proposal. A sign appearing in county corridors last week read, "Notice. The Howard County Council will be considering your wages for next year on Monday May 4 at 7:30 p.m. They will be considering merit raises, longevity pay, and professional engineering premiums. It might just be worth an hour or two of your time to come watch the fun and see what is said and who votes for what."

Ecker said Friday he will be meeting with union representatives soon to talk about the new proposal.

Gray helped provide impetus for the revision by proposing a plan of his own last Monday that would have eliminated some length-of-service bonuses and reduced others, to ensure that every satisfactory employee received at least something. Gray's proposal would have eliminated length-of-service bonuses if the worker was also receiving a 2.5 percent raise.

Under Ecker's proposal, 312 employees will receive both a 2.5 percent raise and a $1,000 or $2,000 bonus for length of service.

As part of the compromise between the original Ecker plan and the Gray plan, the administration will help Gray, the council, and representatives of employee unions examine the way the county deals with length-of-service bonuses.

"Personnel matters are very complicated -- especially when you only have a one-month window," Gray said. "There is still a lot of work to be done in restructuring longevity [pay]. We'll be taking a long look at that over the summer. I am very pleased with the administration's willingness to discuss it."

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