About 9,000 Montgomery County government employees should receive more time off next year, according to top members of County Executive Ike Leggett's administration.
Executive officials say nonunion workers should receive 26 more paid hours away from office next year, joining union members who are slated to get more time off under a bargaining agreement.
The county's unionized firefighters would get up to 48 additional hours off next year, and police and municipal union members another 26 hours, under negotiations approved by Leggett, The Washington Examiner first reported.
Leggett contends the expansion of leave is needed to offset salary freezes and cost-of-living increases that won't be awarded to employees, but some County Council members -- who must approve the measure -- are bristling at the proposal.
"I'm not in any mood after what we just went through in the budget to be granting more benefits," said Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, D-Silver Spring. "We say one thing and do another. This is not going to be one of those times."
County residents will pay an estimated $250 in new taxes this fiscal year, and two dozen employees were laid off and more than 200 positions eliminated in filling a $1 billion budget gap.
Administration officials say the measure won't have a fiscal effect, as it can't be cashed out. However, critics argue employees will use the new leave days in place of already awarded time off -- which will lead to a buildup of vacation days the county must eventually pay off.
"The problem is the county can't afford to take on any additional pay obligations," said Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville. "There is no justification for taking this on."
CountyStat, Montgomery's oversight program, found that a 1 percent increase in worker availability would net the equivalent of nearly 100 additional workers.
All nonschool employees will take between three and eight days of furloughs this fiscal year, depending on their paychecks. School officials are not affected by the leave agreement.
A County Council committee will review the bargaining agreements Monday. It is expected to scrutinize a contract provision with firefighters calling for the elimination of random drug testing and another, with police officers, who would be eligible for $135,000 in tuition assistance funding in fiscal 2012.