Come Labor Day, you’ll know what you’re worth

How would you like to spend a precious August week doing complicated math for the salaries 10, or 25 or 367 employees?

August is such a bittersweet month. Great weather, beach time, easy traffic except on South Capitol Street going to Nationals games. But August leads to Labor Day, school buses and the next thing you know, early darkness, cold and snow.

Probably 25 percent of you are headed to vacation after today. Have fun in Duck, or Chatham, or Yellowstone. I’ll be here watching the dog walkers on Idaho Ave. in upper Northwest.

But please take a moment to shed some pity on your human resources people. They just got a fairly incomprehensible memo from Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert. It’s time to figure out the January 1, 2017 salary increases for those receiving special pay.

Special pay is for people in jobs hard-to-fill or having some other characteristic that makes the government feel it has to dig a little deeper to recruit or retain them. It happens in industry too.

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This is more complicated than you might think, because special pay has to be figured in along with whatever general, across-the-board or locality raises President Barack Obama decides on. He’ll let us know by August 31.

OPM is pretty certain it’ll be 1.6 percent. Afterwards, the president might whisper to himself, “So long, suckers!”

Here’s a typical calculation someone in HR must consequently do. This example is for a specially paid person at 30 percent above the normal rate (and don’t try this without a calculator):

“The default special rate adjustment (1.6%) would produce a new special rate that is 32.08% above the old GS base rate  (101.6% of old base rate) x 1.30 = 1.3208. The new special rate would be 1.6% higher than old special rate: 1.3208 / 1.30 = 101.6%.”

How would you like to spend a precious August week figuring  out stuff like this for 10, or 25 or 367 employees?

Or this:

“If an agency were to recommend that the special rate not be increased at all, the 30% supplement would be reduced to 27.96%: [1.30 / 1.016 = 1.2795; round up to 1.2796 to ensure no reduction in existing special rate; 101.6% of old base rate x 1.2796 = 1.30; new special rate approximately equals old special rate].”

I’d be thinking, “Gosh, we’re going to run a $534 billion deficit this year, does it really matter if I don’t quite round this out right and Betsy accidentally gets an extra $3.79?”

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