April 30, 2010

Montgomery committee pushes for end to "phantom" COLAs, takes action on furloughs and salaries

Montgomery County's management and fiscal policy committee unanimously endorsed a bill Thursday that would end unusual employee benefits known as "phantom" cost of living increases. In the arrangement, which was put in place last year, the county pays retirement benefits for thousands of employees based on raises they did not receive. Ending the practice would save the county more than $7 million in the next fiscal year, and county officials said they believe Thursday's committee vote was another sign that the full council is moving toward passage of the bill next month. It was proposed by council member Phil Andrews (D).

Committee members Valerie Ervin (D), Nancy Navarro (D) and Duchy Trachtenberg (D) also endorsed a series of other budget steps that reflect the county's worsening fiscal picture. The committee supported a proposal in County Executive Isiah Leggett's budget not to fund a series of pay increases that are in contracts for public employees. The council has the power to decide whether to fund such contracts.

It also endorsed the principle of "equitable treatment" for county agencies, including the public schools, on the issue of furloughs. Schools officials oppose furloughs, but other officials say without the schools' participation, too much pain would be felt elsewhere. The full council is set to make many of its key decisions on the $4.3 billion budget proposal in three weeks, with a final vote May 27. SOURCE: Washington Post

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