Employees offered 2.5% raise County unions ask for 4% increase

May 19, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

After a third straight year without an increase in pay, Anne Arundel County employees will receive at least a 2.5 percent raise next year -- but only for 10 months.

Not good enough, said representatives from the unions, who insist that enough money is scattered throughout the budget to provide employees with a 4 percent raise.

"You're talking at best a 2.1 or 2.2 percent increase," said Thomas J. Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County. "That's a half a percent a year" if spread over the three years without raises.

"That's ridiculous," he said.

"I think it's a rip-off," said Marvin Redding, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 582, which represents the county's blue-collar workers.

Last week, Mr. Paolino presented the County Council with a list of areas that he said contain enough money to pay for salary increases both this year and the fiscal year beginning July 1.

But yesterday, County Budget Officer Steven Welkos went through the union figures one by one, saying that either the calculations were wrong or that the money was tied up and could not be used for employee raises.

Budget surpluses from 1992 and 1993, which the unions said totaled about $9 million, have been included in the revenue to pay for programs and services in the 1994 budget, Mr. Welkos said.

Union leaders also pointed to the county's $12 million rainy-day reserve fund as a source of money. But Mr. Welkos said the fund is vital to protecting the county's good bond rating, which helps it to obtain lower-interest loans.

"The question is: What is the rainy-day fund for? Was it set up to pay for salary and benefits improvements? And the answer is no," Mr. Welkos said.

Although the unions claimed the county has $20 million more in its pension fund than is necessary, Mr. Welkos said the professional actuary hired by the county said the plans are not over-funded.

Mr. Welkos said the only available money was $5.5 million that had been earmarked for capital building projects in the next budget. Those projects, he said, could be delayed.

"We can go without road resurfacing if we want to let the roads deteriorate for a year," Mr. Welkos said.

The unions say a 4 percent raise would cost $13 million; the county says the cost would be $18 million.

"The bottom line is, the amount of money we say is there, is there," said Dee Zepp, president of the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County, which represents school-system employees. "I have learned from Mr. Neall that you can make numbers do anything you want. But the money is there."

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