Sfuch a large number of federal workers getting larger locality pay increases could dilute the locality pay increases that other federal employees receive.

Sfuch a large number of federal workers getting larger locality pay increases could dilute the locality pay increases that other federal employees receive. KasiaJanus / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Extra pay raises are coming to nearly 33,000 feds next year, thanks to new locality pay rules

The Office of Personnel Management has proposed regulations to create four new locality pay areas, along with a comprehensive map update adding dozens of jurisdictions to existing pay regions.

The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday took a key step toward implementing a series of updates to the map of locality pay areas, approved late last year by the President’s Pay Agent. All told, the agency estimates the changes will grant nearly 33,000 federal employees a bigger pay raise next year.

Each year, the Federal Salary Council, an advisory body of presidential appointees and representatives from federal employee groups, makes a series of recommendations for new locations to be added to the list of locality pay areas. In turn, the president’s pay agent chooses whether to accept or reject those proposals. The proposals that get a green light go to OPM for implementation, typically some time the following year.

Last December, the pay agent approved a series of salary council recommendations, including plans to create four new locality pay areas as well as to add a handful of local jurisdictions to existing pay areas. And the pay agent approved a long-debated plan to modify locality pay areas to better align with a recent update to the Office of Management and Budget’s map of metropolitan statistical areas and combined statistical areas, a move that adds dozens of counties to existing locality pay areas.

The question of how to apply OMB’s new maps to the locality pay system was a hot topic for the Federal Salary Council during the Trump administration. The body failed to come to consensus before last year because representatives of federal employee organizations favored adjusting the locality pay area map only in cases where the OMB update added jurisdictions to a locality pay area, while the board’s political appointees argued that, at least in some cases, instances where a location would be removed from a locality pay area due to the update should be enforced.

In proposed regulations published in the Federal Register Wednesday, OPM indicated it plans to implement all of the salary council and pay agent’s approved changes in time for the 2024 pay raise, which is currently set to be an average 5.2% increase, although the exact portion of that figure going toward locality pay remains uncertain.

Once finalized, four new locality pay areas will be in place by January: Fresno-Madera-Hanford, Calif.; Reno-Fernley, Nev.; Rochester-Batavia-Seneca Falls, N.Y.; and Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, Wash. and Idaho.

The following regions will be added to existing locality pay areas through the traditional process of analyzing regions adjacent to pay areas: Dukes and Nantucket counties, Mass., will join the Boston locality pay area; Huron County, Mich., will join the Detroit locality pay area; and Pacific and San Juan counties, Wash., will be included in the Seattle locality pay areas. Greensville County and the city of Emporia, Va., will become part of the Richmond, Va., locality pay area.

OPM estimated the total number of federal employees anticipated to receive a pay boost thanks to these changes to be around 16,200. Another 16,700 feds are expected to be impacted by the planned OMB map update. OPM warned that such a large number of federal workers getting larger locality pay increases due to these changes could dilute the locality pay increases that other federal employees receive, however.

“Other federal employees who receive [General Schedule] locality pay would be indirectly impacted at the time of an annual pay adjustment,” the regulations state. “Due to the scope of this proposed rule, OPM does not anticipate that it would substantially impact local economies or have a large ripple effect in local labor markets. However, OPM is requesting comment on this rule regarding the impacts related to future annual pay adjustments. OPM is highly interested in any impacts of locality pay adjustments due to rulemaking and will continue to study the implications of such impacts as needed.”

The following is a list of all additions of jurisdictions to existing locality pay areas as a result of aligning locality pay with OMB’s updated statistical areas map. Overall locality pay areas are listed first, followed by the jurisdictions set to be added to those areas:

  • Albany-Schenectady, N.Y.-Mass.: Greene and Hamilton counties, N.Y.
  • Albuquerque-Santa Fe-Las Vegas, N.M.: Mora County
  • Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs, Ga., Ala.: Cherokee, Cleburne, Lee, Randolph and Russell counties, Ala.; Chattahoochee, Elbert, Floyd, Franklin, Gilmer, Greene, Habersham, Harris, Lumpkin, Marion, Muscogee, Putnam, Rabun, Stephens, Stewart, Talbot, Taliaferro and White counties, Ga.
  • Austin-Round Rock, Texas: Blanco, Burnet, Lee County and Milam counties
  • Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, Ala.: Clay, Etowah, Greene, Hale, Pickens, Tuscaloosa and Winston counties
  • Boston-Worcester-Providence, Mass.-R.I.-N.H.-Maine: Windham County, Conn., Carroll, Chesire, Grafton and Sullivan counties, N.H., Orange and Windsor counties, Vt.
  • Buffalo-Cheektowaga, N.Y.: Allegany and Wyoming counties
  • Burlington-South Burlington, Vt.: Addison, Lamoille and Washington counties
  • Charlotte-Concord, N.C.-S.C.: Alexander, Anson, Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties, N.C., and Chesterfield County, S.C.
  • Chicago-Naperville, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.: Boone, Iroquois, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties, Ill., and Starke County, Ind.
  • Cincinnati-Wilmington-Maysville, Ohio-Ky.-Ind.: Ripley and Switzerland counties, Ind., Carroll, Fleming, Lewis, Owen, and Robertson counties, Ky., and Adams and Highland counties, Ohio
  • Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio: Ashland, Columbiana, Crawford, Holmes, Mahoning, Richland, Trumbull and Wayne counties, Ohio, and Mercer County, Pa.
  • Columbus-Marion-Zanesville, Ohio: Coshocton, Hardin, Morgan, Noble, Pike and Vinton counties
  • Corpus Christi-Kingsville-Alice, Texas: Duval, Live Oak and Refugio counties
  • Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas-Okla.: Carter and Love counties, Okla., Hill, Jack, Montague, Rains and Van Zandt counties, Texas
  • Davenport-Moline, Iowa-Ill.: Lee and Whiteside counties, Ill., Cedar Jackson and Louisa counties, Iowa
  • Dayton-Springfield-Sidney, Ohio: Allen, Auglaize, Mercer and Van Wert counties
  • Denver-Aurora, Colo.: Lincoln County
  • Des Moines-Ames-West Des Moines, Iowa: Adair, Clarke, Greene, Hamilton, Lucas, Mahaska, Marion, Monroe and Poweshiek counties
  • Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, Mich.: Clinton, Eaton, Huron, Ingham, Jackson, Sanilac, Shiawassee and Tuscola counties
  • Harrisburg-Lebanon, Pa.: Juniata County
  • Houston-The Woodlands, Texas: Colorado, Grimes, Jackson and Madison counties
  • Huntsville-Decatur-Albertville, Ala.: Colbert and Lauderdale counties, Ala., and Lincoln County, Tenn.
  • Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie, Ind.: Benton, Blackford, Carroll, Clinton, Fayette, Fountain, Lawrence, Monroe, Owen, Randolph, Rush, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Warren and Wayne counties
  • Kansas City-Overland Park-Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.: Anderson County, Kan., Carroll, Daviess, Gentry, Henry and Holt counties, Mo.
  • Laredo, Texas: Jim Hogg and La Salle counties
  • Milwaukee-Racine-Waukesha, Wis.: Fond du Lac and Sheboygan counties
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.-Wisc.: Blue Earth, Brown, Dodge, Fillmore, Kanabec, Meeker, Morrison, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Pine, Steele, Wabasha, and Waseca counties, Minn., and Polk County, Wis.
  • New York-Newark, N.Y.-N.J.-Conn.-Pa.: Sullivan County, N.Y. and Wayne County, Pa.
  • Omaha-Council Bluffs-Fremont, Neb.-Iowa: Fremont and Shelby counties, Iowa, and Burt County, Neb.
  • Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.: Sussex County, Del, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties, Md., and Schuylkill County, Pa.
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scotsdale, Ariz.: Gila County
  • Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pa.-Ohio-W.Va.: Belmont County, Ohio, Cambria, Greene and Somerset counties, Pa., and Marshall and Ohio counties, W.Va.
  • Portland-Vancouver-Salem, Ore.-Wash.: Wahkiakum County, Wash.
  • Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.: Caswell, Edgecombe, Halifax, Moore, Nash, Northampton, Warren and Wilson counties
  • Richmond, Va: Brunswick, Essex and Nottoway counties
  • Sacramento-Roseville, Calif.-Nev.: Alpine, Amador, Bute, Colusa and Sierra counties, Calif.
  • San Antonio-New Braunfels-Pearsall, Texas: Gillespie, Gonzales, Karnes, Kerr and McMullen counties
  • San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif.: Calaveras, Merced and Stanislaus counties
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Wash.: Grays Harbor County
  • St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, Mo.-Ill.: Fayette, Greene, Montgomery, Randolph, and Washington counties, Ill., Crawford, Gasconade, Iron, Madison, Montgomery, Pike, Ste. Genevieve and Washington counties, Mo.
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk, Va.-N.C.: Chowan and Hertford counties, N.C., Middlesex, Southampton, and Surry counties and Franklin City, Va.
  • Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va.-Pa.: Allegany and Caroline counties, Md., Madison, Orange, Shenandoah, and Westmoreland counties, Va., Hardy and Mineral counties, W.Va. Additionally, Caroline County, Va., will transfer from Richmond’s locality pay area to Washington, D.C.’s.