In the federal government, the numbers affecting your income and expenses change with the calendar. You are only now digesting the increases in your salary (employees), cost-of-living adjustments (retirees and survivors), and increased premiums for Medicare Part B (retirees) and health benefits (everybody). So, now is the time to go over these numbers and see what the government hath wrought. I’ll start with salaries.
As you probably know by now, the President signed a bill granting a 3.1 percent increase to the salaries of general schedule employees. Once upon a time, this would have meant that every GS employee’s salary (except those capped by law) would have gotten the same percentage increase. However, under the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, such an increase is now divided into two parts: an across-the board increase and locality pay.
In 2006, all GS employees within locality pay boundaries will receive increases that generally range between 2.83 to 5.62 percent (somewhat lower raises are being paid in three localities, Orlando, Kansas City and St. Louis, that are being absorbed into the catchall “rest of the U.S.” locality) while those in what is called the RUS (rest of the U.S.) will get a 2.1 percent increase. Those in the Washington-Baltimore area will see an increase of 3.44 percent.
If you’d like to see how folks in your area fared compared with those in other ones, go to www.opm.gov/oca/06tables/index.asp. There you can call up the rates paid not only to GS employees but to special category employees, such as law enforcement officers, members of the Senior Executive Service, administrative law judges, and those in other related pay systems. You can also see what the pay rates are for wage grade employees. While their salaries are set at different times of the year, their pay increases cannot exceed the percentage paid to GS employees in their area.
For most employees, the new pay and leave year begins on January 8. However, you won’t se the first fruits of the 2006 increase until the end of January or the beginning of February. That’s because you are paid after you have put in a full pay period.
Next time, I’ll bring you up-to-date on cost-of-living increases aka COLAs.