3% or 3.5% in 2008? Check Out the Actual Dollars and Cents in Your Locality

Will federal employees get a raise of 3% or 3.5% in 2008 (or some other figure)? No one knows but one of these two is likely. Here is how to quickly calculate what the raise will mean to the actual dollars in your paycheck for next year.

How much more will you have in your paycheck next year?

Until the political process plays out, no one will be able to give you a definitive answer.

There is a good chance that federal employees who are still working will get an average raise of 3.5% next year. There is also a chance, less likely but still not out of the question, that federal employees will get an average raise of 3% for 2008. For more on this, check out the article "2008 Pay Raise on Track: What Arguments Will Sway Congress")

The latest version of the pay tables includes the locality pay rates released by OPM. The tables also include the rates for the possibility of a 3.5% raise or a 3% raise. When a reader enters a step, grade, and localilty, the annual and hourly information will be instantly displayed. The display includes both the 2007 pay rate and the estimates for the 2008 pay rate.

Don’t spend the money yet. The only sure bet is that no one knows what will happen in Congress with the complex political interests vying for attention in the federal budget process.

The Biggest Winners

The 2008 locality pay rates mean that not all federal employees will get the same pay raise. Whether the final raises come out to be 3% or 3.5%, the biggest winners in this process will be the federal employees living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Federal employees there are often higher in the pay charts than other regions of the country and the average federal employee there now takes in an annual paycheck somewhere north of $80,000 per year. For 2008, DC area feds will get the biggest raise of all. If the final Congressional budget comes through with an average raise of 3.5%, those working in the Washington area will see their checks go up 4.49%. If the average raise is 3%, the DC area folks will get a locality bump of 3.49%.

Who Comes in Second (and Third)

The only other area that will see a raise of more than 4% will be those living in San Francisco where the locality bump will be 4.23% or, perhaps, 3.37% depending on the whims of Congress. The hard working folks dealing with the traffic and congestion of New York City will get another 3.97% or 3.23%, respectively.

Where Will You Get the Best Bang for Your Federal Bucks?

The best place to live for federal employees? If you want to get more bang for your federal bucks, take a look at Huntsville, Alabama. The federal employees working at Redstone Arsenal or for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center may see an increase of 3.07% or 2.79%. That is less than those federal workers working in Washington, New York or San Francisco but, from personal experience, I would rather be paying for a house and paying the local taxes in Huntsville than in the other locations. Huntsville has the advantage of being in a state with low taxes, relatively low housing prices, low crime rates and more cultural amenities and restaurants than other communities of a similar size.

More importantly, a diner can order sweet tea for lunch and get a large portion of Alabama barbeque or fried catfish, usually from a server with a lilting Southern accent, for under $10.00. And, not surprisingly, not all readers will agree with this suggestion.

Of course, if you really want to spend a few hundred dollars for dinner at some of the nation’s most expensive restaurants, or put out the money to see a show on Broadway or the Kennedy Center instead of a Broadway production on tour, there is no doubt that there are more opportunities to do that in the bigger cities. And, for some readers, the drive to Napa Valley wineries or a visit to surprisingly good wine made in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State are too far rom Huntsville.

But, regardless of where you choose to live, take a quick look at the new 2008 pay tables, calculate how much more money you will be making next year (you can add an additional amount for a within-grade increase or a promotion if these apply to you), and then start planning your next vacation. And, while you may not like the amount of the pay raise, be happy. The average federal employee makes a lot more than the average American, the federal employee health benefit program and the federal TSP program are often cited as models for the rest of America. Overall, you should be feeling good about your choice of a career in the federal government.

(For comparison purposes, take a look at "Average Federal Employee Compensation in 2006: $111,180")

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47