The Office of Personnel Management is finally taking the next steps to establish 4 new locality pay areas. They will propose regulations to establish Birmingham-Hoover-Talladega, AL; Burlington-South Burlington, VT; San Antonia-New Braunfels-Pearsall, TX; and Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA as new pay areas, which would impact about 62,000 employees.
Once the regulatory process is complete, the president must set locality pay rates for the new areas, typically occurring at the very end of each calendar year. Federal employees in these areas will likely see the locality pay changes on or after January 1, 2019, in their paychecks of the new year. The addition of these 4 areas would bring the total number of locality pay areas to 51, including the “rest of the U.S.”
Those in Burlington and Virginia Beach have been waiting a few years for locality pay to become official. The Federal Salary Council first voted back in November 2015 to establish those areas as separate locality pay areas.
The president’s pay agent, a body made up of the Labor Secretary, the Office of Management and Budget director and the OPM director, finalized those additions in November 2016.
The council also approved Birmingham and San Antonio as new areas in 2016.
The regulations proposed by OPM also include small changes to existing locality pay areas. The pay agent agreed to use updated commuting pattern data as part of the methodology it used to calculate federal pay. Because of this, OPM will add McKinley County, NM to the existing locality pay area in Albuquerque, NM and San Luis Obispo County, CA to the Los Angeles-Long Beach area. The moves would impact about 1,600 and 100 employees respectively.
The Federal Salary Council approved 2 additional pay areas in Corpus Christi, TX, and Omaha, NE, however, these regulations make no mention of these 2 areas, meaning federal employees in these areas will have to wait for the president’s pay agent to approve and for OPM to take separate action.
OPM’s regulations will be open for public comment for 30 days, starting July 9.