Questions–and Answers–About 2008 Pay Rates

Readers have asked several questions about the pay tables we have posted on our site for the 2008 pay raise. Here are answers to the most common questions.

Christmas is over. The new year is upon us. Congress has finally passed an appropriations bill–well after the start of the fiscal year but at least they got something passed.

As often happens, the hard work in agencies begins after Congress passes a new budget and it is signed by the President.

For many readers, it is that time of year when the questions start in earnest about their pay raise that starts this month. Prior to January, it wasn’t real money. But now, the real money should be reflected in the regular pay check. So how much will it be?

We have had a number of questions and comments from readers about the 2008 pay rates in the past few days. When we started our site, way back in 2001, we had 150,000 hits during that first year in which we ran the site for a few months during that year. According to our reliable webmaster, we finished up 2007 with 76 million hits in 2007.

That is great news and our staff of volunteers works hard to provide the free services on our site. The reality is that the mail volume has gone up tremendously and we still have the same small staff we had back in 2001. The effect is that we cannot always provide personal answers to queries we get from readers. (And we studiously avoid answering questions that ask for specific advice on a personal human resources problem.) But here are answers to some of the questions we have been getting regarding the 2008 pay raise.

Why are the FedSmith pay tables different from the pay tables OPM has posted on their site?

Our pay tables reflect the 3.5% average pay raise that has been approved through the political process. The figures in our tables are estimates but we are confident that the pay rates we have for each grade, step and locality are quite accurate.

The pay tables on the OPM site reflect an average pay raise of 3% rather than the 3.5% that was finally approved a few days ago. As a result, the rates in the OPM tables are lower than the actual money you will see in your paycheck. OPM will undoubtedly post the new rates in the near future. When that happens, we will also tweak the FedSmith pay tables to ensure that any last minute changes are included.

How can FedSmith post pay tables so quickly and it takes OPM so long to post their tables?

There are a couple of reasons for this. (By way of disclosure, I used to work for OPM in Washington, DC but had nothing to do with OPM’s role in the federal pay system.)

OPM is a federal agency with responsibility for many aspects of the federal pay system. They make a myriad of decisions involving many people. And, as a federal agency, they have protocol to observe, interest groups to satisfy, and a responsibility to implement a wide variety of federal pay systems throughout the world.

FedSmith is a small company with a small number of people. We are not subject to the normal political pressure that agencies are subject to. We also don’t have to wait until the President signs an executive order before we can publish the tables. We have a small number of people with a very limited mission. Our primary job is to provide news and information for our readers as quickly and accurately as we can. We also have a very smart programmer who runs our website with an ability to get to the essence of a program and to provide us with code that is easy, fast and looks pretty good.

When will OPM post their 2008 pay tables showing the average 3.5% raise?

Our best guess is that the rates will be posted after the President signs a new executive order on the pay rates. That could occur at any time and OPM will probably have everything ready to go when that happens. We will tweak the FedSmith pay tables at that time to ensure any changes have been incorporated.

When do the new pay rates become effective?

The 2008 pay rates will become effective on the first day of the first applicable pay period beginning on or after January 1, 2008.

How come other sites that provide news for federal employees do not provide a link to the FedSmith pay tables even though they are not available anywhere else?

If this question is based on a factual assumption, and I have no way to know if it is true, you will have to ask the other organizations. Anyone can link to our articles and various organizations link to a wide variety of our articles. As the FedSmith tables are not an official government document, there may be some concern that the tables are not accurate and are not within the control of anyone else. Or, perhaps, there is a looming specter of competition from our very small group of volunteers that runs a free site for the federal community.

Why does FedSmith not do similar tables for all of the federal pay systems that are used?

We don’t have enough time to do so and there are some very complex pay systems that are used. We do not have enough people working with our company to provide this information. We have chosen to focus on the system that is the most common system and of interest to the largest number of readers.

I enjoy your free daily newsletter and your wide range of articles. Do you plan on continuing to offer the newsletter at no charge or will you be charging for it?

We have no plans and have never had any discussions about charging for the newsletter. A free newsletter generates more traffic and is a useful service to readers. And, since we are already getting such a high rate of pay as a volunteer workforce, why would we need to make money?

I apologize we cannot provide a personal response to those readers who have taken the time to pose good questions.

I wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2008!

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