Montgomery County

Montgomery County approves union contracts featuring salary hikes in 3% range

The exterior of the Montgomery County Office Building at 64 Broadway in Fonda is seen on Dec. 13, 2021.

The exterior of the Montgomery County Office Building at 64 Broadway in Fonda is seen on Dec. 13, 2021.

FONDA — Agreements reached by Montgomery County and three collective bargaining units will provide those union members with roughly 3% wage increases as part of negotiated contracts that will cost just over $938,000 combined next year.

“We really tried to put forward some pro-employee initiatives when we looked at salaries,” Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said Tuesday. “Everybody got something and that is the best possible way a negotiation can go.”

The contract with the Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Police Benevolent Association is expected to cost the county $161,988 next year and will run through Dec. 31, 2023. The contract with the Council 82 Correction Supervisors will cost $200,377 and runs through Dec. 31, 2024.

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

Ossenfort said the contracts include salary increases in the 3% range with additional wage bumps based on longevity for some employees who stay with the county for certain lengths of time.

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

The contract with corrections supervisors also includes a one-time bonus that accounts for $122,940 of the overall cost anticipated next year. Ossenfort indicated the bonuses included in the contract were partially intended to account for the $222,246 in other compensation included in the contract negotiated with corrections officers that was approved in October.

“That is one of the issues we address a lot of the time. When we change one thing in one unit, we need to change it in the other unit to keep consistency,” Ossenfort said.

Contract negotiations primarily focused on compensation, according to Ossenfort, who has increasingly sought to shift other employment issues to be resolved through labor management meetings over his tenure in office.

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

Negotiations close

The approval by the Montgomery County Legislature on Dec. 21 of the three contracts brought to a close before the end of the year negotiations with all seven of the county’s bargaining units.

The three recently negotiated contracts were settled after the adoption of the $127.46 million 2022 county budget in early November, meaning the costs associated with the union agreements could not be anticipated in the budget for the upcoming year. Consequently, nearly all of the related budget impacts will be covered with fund balance. Only $51,500 for the contract with the Deputy Sheriff PBA will come from budgeted funds within the department.

Before voting on the contracts, District 4 Legislator Robert Headwell Jr. suggested that instead of fully covering the expenses with fund balance, individual departments should be responsible for the salary increases and tasked by the Legislature with finding areas to cut from their budgets to offset the wage hikes.

The legislators agreed there were questions to be asked of department heads about how the expenses would be covered in future years and if there were savings that could be implemented to offset the costs over the coming year before the contracts were ultimately approved.

Ossenfort said department heads already review their budgets throughout the year looking for potential savings, while describing the idea that sufficient cuts could be found to cover the salary increases as “just not realistic.”

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

Strong sales tax returns have helped the county grow its fund balance over the past several years. Although the current year’s budget anticipated only $31.5 million in sales tax revenues, the county has been on pace to approach $40 million this year.

With the fund balance expected to grow to around $16 million this year, Ossenfort is confident the county can absorb the costs of the negotiated contracts this year while planning for the recurring expenses in the future.

“I think these are responsible agreements we’ve made and I’m happy they’re done,” Ossenfort said. “I’m thankful to leadership in bargaining positions to be able to work together to get it done.”

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

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