Credit: File photo

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is criticizing the County Council for rejecting the contract with the county’s main government union, Local 1994 MCGEO, which would have given raises of more than 9% to some employees.

The council’s unanimous vote signaled the MCGEO raises were fiscally unsustainable and members asked that the raises be pared down to about 6%, which is closer to the raises members of other county unions will receive next year.

The larger raise this year stemmed from a series of make-up steps agreed to after previous councils decided not to fund in years following the 2008 recession.

Elrich, however, said on Tuesday that he found the council’s comments about the contracts being too expensive to be “hyperbolic and fundamentally untrue.”

Elrich said the 9.4% raises would only apply to some 1,200 employees and would cost the county roughly $3 million over the next two fiscal years.

“They’ve just made up a number by adding percentages together without looking at who the percentages applied to. It would be true if everybody got the first step and everybody got the second step, but that’s not true. And they know it,” he said.

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Elrich’s estimates for the two make-up step increases were correct, but noted that when other elements of the MCGEO contract are taken into account, such as raises awarded for longevity, general wage adjustments and a lump sum, the total cost is about $14 million for fiscal 2020 and $21 million for each year after, according to Aron Trombka, a legislative analyst with the council.

Elrich noted that the county’s teacher, police and firefighter unions have all received make-up steps from the council, and that MCGEO is the only union that has not received any of its post-recession make-up steps, which he thinks is a double standard from the council.

“If they wanted equity, they’d put MCGEO back on the same basis as the other unions. If you vote for somebody to get to steps back … you’ve gotta ask why is this the union you didn’t give any steps back to?” he said.

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Council President Nancy Navarro responded to Elrich’s criticism by saying that the council is committed to funding the step increases, but at a level that “shows parity” with the other negotiated union agreements.

“Because there was a particular component that seemed to be out of whack with the rest of the negotiated agreements, the council felt it was important to set that precedent going forward, because this is a new administration and a new council,” she said.

No formal negotiations between Elrich and MCGEO have yet occurred, but Council member Craig Rice, who is serving as the council’s representative in the process, said a preliminary meeting between MCGEO and members of Elrich staff took place on Monday. Rice said MCGEO has a deadline of Friday to make a new proposal for the contract.

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“Hopefully we’ll hear something from then very soon about what potentially they were able to come up with,” he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com