GovGuam Employees Could See Raises If Budget Bill Passes

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Calvo to veto bill, says government cannot fund amendments

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, August 21, 2013) – Government of Guam employees could see a salary increase if the budget bill passed yesterday becomes law.

The Legislature's amended budget bill for fiscal 2014, introduced and passed yesterday, includes $10.9 million to implement the study's recommended salary increases.

Based on the 2010 plan created by consultant the Hay Group, $13.1 million is what's needed each year to get about 6,000 line-agency employees in line with the new pay scale. The Hay Group was paid to revise the government's unified pay scale, which hadn't been updated in two decades.

However, Gov. Eddie Calvo said yesterday that he would veto the bill because of several provisions he called "irresponsible."

He said the pay raises in the Hay study should be phased in, based on cash availability, and lawmakers should lower the cost-of-living allowance they plan to give to GovGuam retirees.

He said the government doesn't have the funds to pay for all the amendments to the budget bill.

[PIR editor's note: Last week, Calvo urged lawmakers to include funding for pay raises in the budget by using money that would have been used to address deficits in 2014.]

Employees excited

Several GovGuam employees, meanwhile, are excited about the prospect of a salary increase.

LeeAnn Cruz, a school aide at Untalan Middle School, said she and other employees have been discussing the Hay salary increases and are excited to see them implemented.

"I've been waiting for this and I'm hoping it comes true," she said.

Cruz said government employees work hard, but aren't paid as much as they'd like.

Gretchen Andres, an English teacher at Simon Sanchez High School, said a salary increase would be a great morale booster for teachers.

"First and foremost, teachers here don't teach for the money. But it would be really nice and helpful if the Hay study is enforced," Andres said.

She said a salary increase could help teachers struggling to raise families or who spend money on supplies and equipment for their classrooms.

Recruiting and retaining

Andres said teachers also often look for other jobs because the pay isn't enough to get by. She said she's seen several teachers leave the high school for better-paying jobs.

"It's sad that we lose teachers, but it's the reality when you have families to raise, to take care of, and things getting more expensive," she said.

She said an increase in salary would entice teachers to stay with the school system or encourage others to become teachers.

Even if the new pay scale is implemented, however, GovGuam workers still would be paid less than the national average for their jobs.

Guam law requires that the unified pay schedule be adjusted to meet the national average, but the consultant said GovGuam cannot afford it.

So it aimed lower, creating a new pay scale with a midpoint that is 15 percent below the national average and recommending that employees be paid according to the lowest point of that revised pay range.

The midpoint of the revised pay range would be much more expensive to reach -- about $43.1 million per year -- according to the consultant, and it would still be well below the national average.

Greener pastures

Public Auditor Doris Brooks said many of her employees have left for better-paying jobs in autonomous agencies.

She said the salary increase for most of her employees would be about 5 percent under the new pay scale.

That's still far less than the pay at the government's autonomous agencies, such as the Guam Power Authority.

Although the pay scale for the government's line agencies is outdated, lawmakers over the years have allowed the port, the airport, and the utility agencies to adopt new, higher pay scales, specific to their employees.

Brooks said those autonomous agencies can raise their rates or fees to pay for salary increases, while line agencies cannot.

"Our office will get something, but it's very nominal," she said.

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