Pay trails for state professional employees Unions' survey puts Md. behind many counties

October 29, 1997|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Salaries of Maryland government's professional employees are lagging far behind those of civil servants in the counties and surrounding states, according to a report to be released today by two unions representing state workers.

The study shows that the maximum salaries for fully experienced professionals in some counties are more than 50 percent greater than those of state workers with comparable duties.

The largest disparities showed up in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, but large gaps also were found in Howard, Harford and Anne Arundel.

The report was prepared by the Maryland Federation of Public VTC Employees and the Maryland Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, both of which are in negotiations with the state.

Maryland officials have acknowledged that state employees have fallen behind other government workers after receiving no base salary increases in five of the past seven years. But union officials said they were surprised at the magnitude of the gap.

The report could provide new ammunition to political leaders who have been warning of a "brain drain" affecting state government services. By showing a wide disparity between state and local government pay, the study could weaken the hand of county executives when they go to the legislature seeking increased state aid.

"We should look at our state government very carefully now that boom times are here and the county governments all have surpluses," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Prince George's Democrat.

In a letter to Gov. Parris N. Glendening in May, Miller warned that he plans increased scrutiny of local aid requests in the 1998 legislative session. He noted generous pay increases in Maryland counties, especially a 6.25 percent increase in Montgomery.

But David S. Bliden, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said it would be unfair to make such a connection.

"I don't think there should be any negative conclusion drawn from counties treating their employees fairly," he said.

While the objectivity of the report could be questioned because of the union role, the results appear to be consistent with anecdotal evidence and other salary comparisons made in the past.

For instance, a recent survey of county and municipal compensation by the University of Maryland's Institute for Governmental Service found that such semirural counties as Charles, Frederick and Carroll in some cases pay salaries that exceed the state's.

The unions' findings are based on a survey of 26 government positions, including accountants, property tax assessors, civil engineers, systems analysts, nurses, planners and nutritionists.

The survey is based on 1997 salaries and does not include the $1,275 raises in fiscal 1999 and 2000 that the Glendening administration has negotiated with another union. Those raises, which require General Assembly approval, are expected to set the pattern for the remaining contract talks.

The study says starting professional salaries in Maryland's six charter county governments range from 15.5 percent greater than the state's in Baltimore County to 29.2 percent greater in Prince George's. Maximum salaries range from 10.3 percent greater in Baltimore County to 52.6 percent greater in Prince George's.

The survey found that Maryland state government salaries fall short of those in all three neighboring states surveyed -- though Maryland leads the region in annual pay for all workers.

Pub Date: 10/29/97

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