More federal employees could fall into localities with specific pay rates in the future, under policies being considered by the Federal Salary Council, although few changes are likely in the short run.
The council is an advisory group that examines whether metropolitan areas now in the “rest of the U.S.” locality—the lowest-paid—should have their own specific rates, and whether areas touching a city area should be added to that zone. The standards involve factors such as comparisons of pay gaps over time, the number of federal employees in an area and commuting rates. The council then makes recommendations to the President’s Pay Agent, made up of the heads of Labor, OPM and OMB.
Moving employees who work in an area now part of RUS into an existing locality, or creating a new one, results in an immediate pay boost in the former case and slightly higher annual raises in both cases. That happened at the start of this year to the benefit of some 70,000 employees, mainly as the result of the creation of six new localities. The salary council has recommended creating a new locality in the Des Moines, Iowa area but the Pay Agent has not made a decision. It’s still possible that action will be taken in time for that to become a new locality in January 2020.
Less certain are the prospects for expanding current localities or creating others. At its recent meeting, the council signaled that it is open to lowering and possibly eliminating the minimum number of employees needed for an area to become a locality or to be added to one. However, it put off a decision to gather more information on the impact, likely meaning a delay until sometime early in 2020 at the soonest.
Also under consideration is whether to change boundary lines of localities to fit new OMB definitions of metropolitan zones that are used for other purposes. In some cases that also would result in areas being added to an adjacent city zone, in other cases areas would switch from one zone to another, and in other cases areas now part of a city zone would become part of the rest of the U.S. locality.
More on the general schedule pay system and locality pay at ask.FEDweek.com