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Raises likely for workers no layoffs are expected


Carroll County employees are likely to receive a raise in the next fiscal year, but it won't be the $1,500 across-the-board increase their union requested, one county commissioner said yesterday.

"It looks like we're going to be able to give a raise," Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said.

He would not give details about the amount, but said the commissioners, who are crafting a fiscal 1996 budget, expect to make a decision on the increase Monday.

The commissioners also said they do not plan to lay off any employees.

"In all of our budget discussions, layoffs have not even come up," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said.

The commissioners met with representatives of Chapter 550 of the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) yesterday afternoon at the County Office Building.

The union represents about 100 of the 250 county employees eligible for membership. Carroll employs about 500 people.

Chapter President Ed Bilz said pay raises given in the past two years were appreciated, but employees still feel they have fallen behind after going without raises for three years previously.

"We still feel like we've lost some ground," said Mr. Bilz, who works in the roads department.

The union requested a $1,500 across-the-board raise for fiscal 1996. Across-the-board increases benefit employees at the lower end of the pay scale more than percentage increases, Mr. Bilz said.

Other government employees are slated to receive raises next year. The $14.4 billion budget approved by the General Assembly Monday includes a 2 percent salary increase for state employees. The Carroll County Board of Education negotiated two-year contracts with school unions that call for 3 percent pay raises each year.

MCEA labor relations representative Roger Murphy said union members realize the county remains in a tight fiscal situation.

"We certainly do understand there is a real budget problem here in Carroll County," he said.

The commissioners have said they need to increase the piggyback income tax to 60 percent from 50 percent to make up for a $4 million deficit and pay for schools needed to keep pace with population growth.

School officials have said the county needs to build eight schools in the next six years. The school population is expected to grow by about 4,100 students to 28,000 students by the year 2000.

The county budget is expected to be about $150 million for fiscal 1996, which begins July 1. The current year's budget is $144 million. The commissioners must adopt a budget by late May.

The MCEA also made proposals in these areas:

* Layoff policy -- The current policy is vague, Mr. Bilz said. The union proposed that the commissioners lay off employees based on total length of satisfactory employment and current job performance.

Employees want "some kind of security so we know where we stand," he said.

* Grievance procedure -- An employee fired or suspended for more than five days should have the right to have his appeal heard before an independent arbitrator, Mr. Murphy said.

The current in-house process often is long, and the employee is not given a sufficient explanation of the decision, he said.

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