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saluting employees

capital with headline "81st Texas Legislature approves employee pay raises, retention payments" on check.

Despite an economic downturn that negatively impacted state revenues, the Texas Legislature has given most TDCJ employees an average pay raise of about 3.5 percent effective September 1, 2009, and another salary increase of 3.5 percent effective September 1, 2010. Uniformed security personnel, TDCJ employees assigned to units whose primary mission is providing and supporting direct offender operations, and parole officers will receive the salary increases taking effect September 2009 and September 2010. The salary increase in the first year of the biennium may be slightly more or less than 3.5 percent for some positions.

Peace officers employed by the Office of Inspector General are on a separate salary schedule and will receive an annual salary increase effective September 2009. Many TDCJ employees who are ineligible for the targeted pay raises will receive a one-time retention payment of $800 authorized for state employees. Most TDCJ employees ineligible for the targeted salary increases are eligible for the $800 gross retention payment if they were continuously employed by the agency from March 31 through August 1, 2009. Employees receiving the targeted increases are not eligible for the $800 retention payment.

Although the size of the pay raise is less than the agency requested, Executive Director Brad Livingston said TDCJ is one of few state agencies where the majority of employees will receive back-to-back salary increases during the next two years.

“During these difficult economic times, for the governor and the Legislature to approve additional compensation for our workforce, whether in the form of salary increases or retention payments, is very much appreciated,” Livingston said. “We have made tremendous progress during the last year and a half in reducing the number of correctional officer vacancies, due in part to the slumping economy. By increasing wages, maintaining benefits and taking action to maintain the fiscal soundness of the employee retirement system, I believe the Legislature has helped put us in a position to retain our talented staff as the economy improves.”

The number of correctional officer vacancies peaked at nearly 4,000 in September 2007, but has since fallen to under 1,300 as of May 2009.

While employee contributions to the retirement system will increase under the provisions of newly-enacted law, current employees were exempted from other statutory changes intended to enhance the long term stability of the retirement fund. See related story here.

Although Director Livingston said the legislative session was a success for TDCJ employees, one disappointment was that legislation equalizing the rate of hazardous duty pay among eligible employees failed to pass. According to Livingston, this issue will be considered again in future legislative sessions.

The pay raise effective September 1 will be reflected in employees’ October paychecks. Employees receiving the one-time retention payment will receive the funds by the end of September 2009.

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