Montgomery County approves union contracts for 3% wage increases

FONDA – Agreements reached by Montgomery County and three collective bargaining units will give these union members roughly 3% wage increases in negotiated contracts that will cost just over $ 938,000 combined year next.

“We really tried to come up with initiatives that were pro-employee when we looked at salaries,” Montgomery County Manager Matthew Ossenfort said on Tuesday. “Everyone has something and this is the best possible way for a negotiation.”

The contract with the Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff’s Police Charity Association is expected to cost the county $ 161,988 next year and will end on December 31, 2023. The contract with the Supervisors of Corrections at Council 82 will cost 200 $ 377 and will run until December 31, 2024.

The contract with the largest of the three bargaining units with more than 100 employees, the Civil Service Employees Association, Local 1000, will cost $ 577,037 next year and run until December 31, 2025.

Ossenfort said the contracts included salary increases of around 3% with additional longevity-based salary increases for some employees who stay in the county for a certain length of time.

“Our goal is to retain employees, especially in times like now when it is difficult to find staff,” said Ossenfort.

The contract with correctional supervisors also includes a one-time bonus that represents $ 122,940 of the overall cost expected next year. Ossenfort said the bonuses included in the contract were in part intended to reflect $ 222,246 in other compensation included in the contract negotiated with correctional officers that was approved in October.

“It’s one of the issues we tackle most of the time. When we change something in one unit, we have to change it in the other unit to keep consistency, ”said Ossenfort.

Contract negotiations have mostly focused on compensation, according to Ossenfort, who has increasingly sought to displace other employment issues to be resolved through union-management meetings during his tenure.

“In my first eight years we worked on a lot of smaller issues and tried to fix the issues in the contracts. Now that I’ve been here for eight years, a lot of those issues have been resolved, ”said Ossenfort, who begins his third and final four-year term on Saturday as county manager.

Closure of negotiations

The Montgomery County legislature’s Dec. 21 approval of the three contracts ended negotiations with the county’s seven bargaining units before the end of the year.

The three recently negotiated contracts were settled after the county’s $ 127.46 million budget for 2022 was passed in early November, meaning costs associated with union deals could not be anticipated in the year’s budget. future. Therefore, almost all of the corresponding budgetary impacts will be covered by the fund balance. Only $ 51,500 for the PBA Deputy Sheriff’s contract will come from funds budgeted within the department.

Before voting on contracts, District 4 lawmaker Robert Headwell Jr. suggested that instead of fully covering expenses with fund balances, individual departments should be responsible for salary increases and charged by the legislature. to find areas to cut in their budgets to offset salary increases.

Lawmakers agreed there were questions for department heads about how expenses would be covered in the coming years and if there were any savings that could be implemented to offset costs over the course of the year. year to come before contracts are finally approved.

Ossenfort said department heads were already reviewing their budgets throughout the year looking for potential savings, while describing the idea that enough cuts could be found to cover salary increases as “quite simply not realistic “.

The inclusion of Montgomery County Treasurer Shawn Bowerman at the negotiating table ensures that negotiations are kept within the county’s financial means, Ossenfort said. The increase in revenues for some county departments will help cover long-term costs that will be factored into next year’s budget process, he added.

Strong sales tax returns have helped the county increase its fund balances in recent years. Although this year’s budget only provided for $ 31.5 million in sales tax revenue, the county is on track to approach $ 40 million this year.

With the fund balance expected to hit around $ 16 million this year, Ossenfort is confident the county can absorb the costs of contracts negotiated this year while planning recurring spending going forward.

“I think these are responsible deals that we have made and I am happy that they are done,” Ossenfort said. “I am grateful for the leadership in the negotiating positions to be able to work together to achieve this. “

Contact Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.