Federal locality pay areas to remain unchanged in 2013

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is one of the members of the advisory panel. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is one of the members of the advisory panel. Department of Labor

Federal employees shouldn’t hold their breath for more locality pay in 2013.

Though the Federal Salary Council requested in November 2011 that the government expand locality pay to five additional metropolitan areas, the President’s Pay Agent rejected the plan in a memo to President Obama.

PPA -- an advisory panel made up of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry -- stated in the memo that it was sympathetic to the council’s desire to improve the pay rates of federal employees living in higher-cost areas but granting them additional pay raises would cost the government too much money.

“Our concerns are based on our belief that new pay areas must be selected in a systematic fashion, that changes in existing pay area boundaries should be considered only after new metropolitan area definitions are published and new commuting pattern data covering all counties in the country are available, and that any such changes be made when the government can better afford them,” PPA wrote in the memo sent Monday and posted online Wednesday.

The five metropolitan areas the council proposed expanding locality pay to were Albany, N.Y.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Harrisburg, Pa. FSC had previously recommended that those five areas, and also Portland, Maine, be considered for locality pay in November 2010. That proposal also was turned down by PPA in May 2011.

Currently, the federal government recognizes 33 locality areas.

PPA also rejected the council’s recommendation to restore $9.8 million in funding to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, calling the proposed funds “a considerable sum” and asked FSC to reassess the recommendation for the following year.

In addition, PPA reiterated its September 2011 recommendation that Congress establish a Commission on Federal Public Service Reform to assess and recommend possible changes to the current federal pay structure.

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