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City Council OKs cost of living raises for its nonunion workers

June 19, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a 2.5 percent cost of living allowance increase for its 126 nonunion employees and agreed to move 104 employees up their pay scale.

Due to increased health care costs, nonunion city employees did not get a cost of living allowance (COLA) increase for the current fiscal year, Mayor William M. Breichner said. It was the first time in about 40 years the city employees did not get a cost of living increase, he said.

The increase approved Tuesday is effective the first full week after July 1.

The average nonunion employee will receive a COLA increase of $1,160 for the year, Assistant Finance Director Ray Foltz said. The total cost of the increase, $168,714, was included in the adopted budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

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About 325 of the city's 451 full-time employees are represented by unions, city officials said.

The city is negotiating with four employee groups representing city employees. Cost of living increases will be part of those negotiations, Breichner said. Each employee group has its own pay scale.

As part of Tuesday's actions, the city added three steps and two grades to the pay scale. The pay scale now has 20 grades. Each grade has 13 steps. Each step within a grade pays more than previous one.

Under the proposal adopted by the council Tuesday, 104 nonunion employees above a certain pay grade will be moved on the pay scale. Those employees will be moved up two pay grades but then down to the lowest step in that grade that still gives them a small pay increases, not including the COLA raises, according to city documents.

The average employee changing grades would receive a 1 percent pay raise, or $439 more a year, Human Resources Director Donna Messina said.

Moving employees to higher grades will cost a total of $72,000, which will come out of $101,727 in savings realized because nonunion employees agreed to participate in a lower cost health care program, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

The council gave tentative approval to the pay scale changes while in executive session at a June 11 meeting, Messina said.

Messina said she proposed changes to the pay scale to make some nonunion city employees' salaries more competitive. It is the first time the pay scale has been significantly changed in at least 15 to 20 years, she said.

Employees at lower pay grades would not be moved up grades because those salaries remain competitive, Messina said. Those employees would receive a one-time bonus of $500, she said.

Foltz said 68 of the nonunion employees are at the top of the pay scale for their grades. The adopted changes will allow those employees, some of whom have been at the same pay step for five or more years, to advance to other steps, Messina said.

Some nonunion employees will be eligible for step increases if they have good evaluations, Messina said.

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