About 25 percent of Anne Arundel County's employees will receive pay raises for the first time in four years thanks to a unanimous vote by the County Council on Monday.
The 3 percent pay increase—which will cost the county $650,000—goes to approximately 1,200 employees who are members of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 70, AFSCME Local 582 and AFSCME Local 2563.
"The last four years, to say the least, have been extremely difficult," said Mike Akers, president of AFSCME Local 582.
Akers testified before Council that his members have accepted years without cost of living increases and a growing number of furlough days.
The vote itself was a formality because Maryland's Court of Appeals restored binding arbitration to the county in September—making the Council legally bound by the May decision of a third-party mediator to give the three unions a pay increase.
The Council tried to end binding arbitration in March 2011 by passing a bill that would have required the Council to approve all decisions made by third-party mediators.
Councilman John Grasso (R-2nd District) took a moment before the pro forma vote to point out the county's $500 million debt.
"Just understand that the money that you will get if this bill passes is borrowed money. It’s money on a charge card," Grasso said. "We are running off of our own little fiscal cliff."
The bill does save the county $200,000 per year by reducing FOP employees' weapons allowance from $780 to $425.
The remaining 75 percent of county employees—including firefighters and police who serve in management positions—will not see pay increases this year.
"[This bill] is not fair and equitable to all employees," said Justin Duncan, a county police fleet coordinator. "It will create a destructive division between those county employees given the 3 percent increase and those not given [an increase]."
He asked the Council to expand the raises to all county employees—including nearly 1,000 workers who are not members of any union.
The Council opted not amend the bill, but Council Chair Jerry Walker (R-7th District) believes all employees will likely see a pay increase next spring.
"It's certainly going to impact upcoming negotiations," Walker said. "Next year, I'm sure everybody will come to the table and say, 'the starting point is what you gave FOP mid-cycle.'"