Government employee union leaders say they know exactly what to expect in the budget that County Executive Janet S. Owens will release today: bad news for county workers.
None of the five unions of county employees up for contract renewal this year has reached any agreement with the county government.
Union leaders report that negotiations have been especially bitter this year. New contracts would begin with the next fiscal year, July 1.
The fire union president described negotiations as "downright ugly," and the leader of the union representing county sheriff's deputies called them "the worst in memory."
Keith Wright, president of the Anne Arundel County Professional Firefighters Local 1563, said the county hasn't budged since its original proposal at the outset of negotiations. He said the union, which represents about 600 firefighters, hasn't talked with county officials in more than a month.
"They have taken very hard positions regarding everything from health care premiums to no merit raises," Wright said. "We're being treated about as drastically as we could have possibly imagined."
O'Brien Atkinson, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70, said his union of about 540 police officers has seen a similar steadfast attitude from the county. For that reason, he said, contract negotiations basically were over before they began.
"There's no give and take," he said. "It's all about taking as much as they can from employees."
County Personnel Officer Mark Atkisson declined to comment on the contract talks, saying only that this "is a financially tough year" for the county and that continuing negotiations are not discussed publicly.
Owens has anticipated getting about $10 million less in state funds than last year toward her projected operating budget of nearly $900 million.
However, Owens has been saying for months that county employees shouldn't expect to receive raises in the next fiscal year.
The five unions in contract talks represent public safety workers or office support staff. There are a total of nine employee unions.
The FOP's Atkinson said the county does not value public safety and has instead shifted its focus - and spending - to support growth and education.
James Fredericks, president of the 74-member Sergeants Association of the county police department, said public safety agencies have been asked to cut spending by 5 percent even as the county has increased support for education.
"All we're asking is, don't make us shoulder the burden of the Board of Education's increase," he said.
Despite an expected $11 million increase in the school system budget, public school teachers likely will not get a 3 percent cost-of-living raise this year that had been negotiated into their contracts, but was contingent upon adequate revenues.
Dave Belisle, head of the Teamsters local for the county's 55 sheriff's deputies, said a mediation session Tuesday yielded no progress. Like the fire union and the Sergeants Association, the local is in the beginning stages of the legal impasse procedure, Beslisle said.
Perhaps signaling a stalemate between the five unions and the county, the Owens administration drafted legislation this month that would freeze all raises and could lead to health insurance increases for all union members who don't have a new contract by July 1.
The County Council will vote on the cost-saving measure Monday. Public safety union members are expected to turn out to protest the legislation.
Meanwhile, union leaders say they are planning to grab front-row seats to listen to the budget unveiling today.
"I'm very interested in seeing what Miss Owens' budget looks like," Fredericks said. The county claims this has been a very dry year, but we don't think that's the case."
Sun staff writers Ryan Davis and Laura Loh contributed to this article.