The public will have a chance tonight to say whether they want to pay more for the "people who care more," the top political appointees County Executive Robert R. Neall wants to hire.
Neall -- a Republican elected in November on a platform of fiscal restraint -- pledged to "opt for people who care more rather than people who cost more" after a doubling of salaries for top county administrators during Democrat O. James Lighthizer's two terms.
But his first legislative challenge to the County Council would raise the salary ceiling for political appointees drafted from outsidecounty government. The bill is scheduled for a hearing tonight at 7:30 in the Arundel Center in Annapolis.
Administration officials say the measure is needed to attract top-quality managers to county government.
First on the list is Dennis H. Parkinson, deputy secretary of the state Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning. His $86,029 state salary is $20,546 above the top salary Neall could offer him ascounty budget director.
The bill would raise the pay ceiling from15 percent above the base salary to 35 percent.
"I think it's probably going to pass," Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, yesterday. "But I've been wrestling with this for the last week."
Neall'spolitical appointee salary bill presents a dilemma for council members, who must vote in May on a budget after the county negotiates contracts with its 11 public employee unions.
Hoping to preserve the county's projected $17 million surplus, Neall imposed a hiring freeze last month and has asked department heads to formulate zero-growth budgets for next year.
Several union leaders have denounced the measure as hypocritical, saying that county administrators should be heldto the same budget restraints as the rank-and-file.
Contract negotiations have already reached an impasse between the county Board of Education and two unions representing principals and secretaries and teaching assistants.
Administration officials have argued that union wages have no bearing on management pay because the bill probably would not add more than the salary of one department head to the county budget.