County workers likely to go without pay raises next fiscal year

Contributions to medical insurance and prescription drug plans expected to increase next year

March 15, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |

Washington County employees might go without cost-of-living or step increases for the second time in a row in the next fiscal year, county officials said Tuesday.

"We have to see how everything shakes out, but we do not currently have a recommendation for an increase in salaries," County Administrator Gregory B. Murray told the Washington County Commissioners during a presentation on the proposed personnel budget.

County employees went without cost-of-living or step increases this fiscal year and received only step increases in the last fiscal year, said George William Sonnik III, the county's human resources director.

In addition, county employees' contributions to medical insurance and prescription drug plans are expected to increase almost 10 percent next year, said Debbie Peyton, the county's benefits administrator.

That amounts to between $1.74 and $9.02 more per month depending on the employee's plan, Peyton said.

Dental and vision plan contributions would remain the same, she said.

The changes would take effect July 1.

The increase comes on top of a roughly 7 percent increase in county employees' health insurance contributions that took effect last July.

Peyton said this year's increase reflects additional costs due to health care reform initiatives.

Mandatory changes include removing annual limits on "essential benefits" for group health plans, covering adult children up to age 26 and removing limits on lifetime coverage, she said. The county's current maximum lifetime coverage limit is $2 million.

With about 1,250 employees, Washington County government was the county's sixth-largest employer as of 2010, according to the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's Business and Industry Directory.

Sonnik said Tuesday that department heads submitted personnel requests amounting to 6.5 new, full-time employees for next year. He recommended approving only two of those requests, amounting to two full-time employees.

One of the requests recommended for approval was for two additional part-time members on the county's election board, if state legislation is passed requiring the board to be increased from three to five members.

The two additional members would cost an additional $9,710 per year.

The other request recommended for approval was for two electronic technicians in the Communications Maintenance Department to handle the increasing maintenance needs associated with the county's switch to a new, state-of-the-art radio system, Sonnik said.

If hired midyear, the two technicians would equate to one additional full-time position, Sonnik said. The cost for the next fiscal year would be $30,070 in wages and benefits.

The recommendations are part of the county's fiscal 2012 budget, which takes effect July 1.

The county will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget before it will go to the commissioners for a vote. Both the hearing and the vote typically take place in May.

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