Public officials don't go begging Most in metro area's top jobs earn at least $60,000 a year

December 21, 1990|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff Marina Sarris, Bruce Reid, Norris P. West, Jay Merwin, Michael Fletcher and Patrick Gilbert contributed to this story.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is chauffeured around town in a Lincoln town car similar to the one that helped persuade tax-burdened suburban voters to throw Dennis F. Rasmussen out of office as Baltimore County executive.

Schmoke's salary is $60,000 a year. Had the mayor remained Baltimore state's attorney, he would be making $14,000 more. As mayor, Schmoke receives no free home or living allowance but still says he won't seek a raise in pay.

Carroll County's three commissioners serve the functions of both executive and council, but they get paid $900 a year less than mere council members in Baltimore County.

Among Howard County's relatively highly paid officials, the county administrative officer is paid nearly $18,000 more a year than the administrative officer in Baltimore County, which has nearly four times Howard's population. And Anne Arundel County's chief administrative officer makes $109,398 -- $40,000 more than his Baltimore County counterpart.

These examples were gleaned from an Evening Sun look at 105 top government jobs in the city and the five metropolitan counties -- positions ranging from mayor and county executive to sheriff. One point came through in the survey: Public officials seldom are poorly compensated; 75 of the 105 jobs, or 71 percent, pay at least $60,000 a year, and 30 of the positions, or 29 percent, pay at least $75,000 a year.

Of the 19 categories of jobs looked at, the school superintendents in the metro area are the highest-paid officials, averaging $102,000, and the lowest paid are councilmen and commissioners, averaging $26,400 a year for these elected, part-time positions.

As for comparisons, the pay and perks of officials in Baltimore and the surrounding counties are all over the map. Although some administrators earn more than a counterpart in a larger jurisdiction due to better experience or longer tenure, some patterns emerge:

* Howard County is slightly more generous with its top administrators, but more in line with similarly sized jurisdictions on other department heads.

* Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, whose previous executives tried to bring a corporate mind-set to government, are liberal in their use of corporate trappings: credit cards for authorized expenses and free cars.

* Except in the city, top officials in the metro area get generous vacations. For example, Harford County allows 24 vacation days after 15 years, and Carroll County grants 30 days off in the 20th year, including "personal" days. In Baltimore County, the policy is even more liberal, with all top officials receiving 25 days regardless of service. But the city grants only 12 days, plus two "personal" days, regardless of length of service.

* Despite Baltimore City's size, status and problems, government salaries in the counties often exceed those in the city.

One exception is the city fire chief, who receives about $26,000 a year more than his Baltimore County counterpart.

If the city fire chief is worth much more than his county cousins, how come the mayor of Baltimore is worth much less? If it all seems confusing and illogical, go straight to the position of school superintendent, where logic prevails. The city superintendent, who has the biggest system and the greatest headaches, makes the most, and the county superintendents are roughly even.

Of all the metro chief executives, Baltimore's mayor has by far the largest motor pool at his disposal.

The mayor's office controls 13 vehicles, including two 1989 Lincoln Town Cars that pick him up at home and ferry him to his appointments. The other vehicles are used by his security and advance people, in ceremonies, for mailroom deliveries or are assigned to personnel in neighborhood mayor's stations.

In Baltimore County, the county executive typically has two vehicles assigned, a main car and a backup vehicle, lately a 4-wheel drive station wagon for bad weather.

Dennis Rasmussen's Lincoln, driven by a police bodyguard, became a symbol of government extravagance to many voters. The new executive, Roger B. Hayden has chosen a 1987 Ford LTD from the county motor pool for his use.

Spending in government, an eternal campaign theme, received heightened attention in last month's election. Suburban voters, disgruntled over their property tax burden, generally opted for more conservative candidates to run their counties.

Hayden, however, who won his seat on a cost-cutting platform, has proposed raising the pay next month of some members of his cabinet who earn less than people they oversee.

In Harford County, some elected officials, namely the sheriff and state's attorney, are receiving large pay raises after getting comparatively low salaries for several years. The low pay persisted despite the county's rapid growth during the 1980s and the large pay raises were seen as correcting that.

A look at total government spending per resident shows Harford County with the lowest figure, $1,347 a year, followed closely by Carroll County with $1,358. The city has the highest figure, $2,615, and Howard County the next highest with $1,933.

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