Efforts to bring a top state budget officer to Anne Arundel are moving forward now that County Executive Robert R. Neall has won the right to offer top appointed officers more money.
A controversial billto increase the allowable starting salary for top-ranking administrators hired from outside county government was passed Tuesday by the County Council, 5-2.
The bill was prompted by Neall's efforts to hire Dennis H. Parkinson, deputy secretary of the state Department of Fiscal Planning, as county budget officer.
The new law, which goes into effect 45 daysafter the executive signs it, allows appointed officers and department heads to be hired at 135 percent of the base salary, as long as they already make 115 percent of the base. Existing law permits outsiders to be brought in at only 115 percent of the minimum salary.
Thesalary question was a major obstacle to Parkinson's coming to Anne Arundel, said David Almy, Neall's deputy chief of staff.
Parkinson would have been required to take a $20,546 pay cut had the law not been changed.
With that resolved, "it looks promising. We're continuing to woo him," Almy said.
With county workers facing a possible wage freeze, even council advocates of the salary bill admitted it came at a bad time.
The two dissenting council members, Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, and David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, argued that changing the law for high-ranking county employees sets a bad precedent.
"We are sending this signal up that if you're on the top echelon, it's all right to give consideration (to a pay raise), but everyone else has to tighten their belts," Boschert said.
Lamb recommended revamping the budget officer's job description and salary scale ratherthan lifting the limit for all outside appointees. But the rest of the council agreed that the new law merely gives the executive more flexibility in hiring.
"The individual who's the focus of this particular legislation obviously has real value. I'd hate for us to be penny-wise and pound-foolish," said Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, R-Arnold.
"The county executive needs to be surrounded by the people he feels most comfortable with," said Councilman George F. Bachman, D-Linthicum.
The new law affects 28 appointed positions. Besides the budget officer's post, only one position -- assistant to the county executive -- is now open, Almy said.
Changing the law does not increase the cost of county government, and no one will be hired at a salary above that of the employee being replaced, Mayer said at Tuesday's council meeting.
Parkinson, for example, makes $86,029 at the state level. Under the new law, he could be hired at $76,871 -- $7,688 less than Marita Brown, the recently departed county budget officer, was making.
The old law would have prohibited Neall from offering more than $65,000 for the budget officer's position -- less money than some assistant budget officers make, Neall said.
"If the bill hadn't passed, I would have had a hard time recruiting anybody," the executive said after Tuesday's meeting.
In other business, the council:
* Introduced a non-binding resolution denying the school board additional money for the rest of the fiscal year until it begins spending reforms.
Evans, who is co-sponsoring the resolution with Councilmen Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, and George F. Bachman, D-Linthicum, said the school board "is going to have to do something pretty definitive" before she will vote to give them extra money.
Theschool system is facing an $8 million deficit.
A public hearing on the resolution is scheduled for Feb. 4.
* Passed resolutions approving state financing for Omni House Inc., which wants to buy and operate 12 low-income condominiums in the Village of Cromwell Fountain near Glen Burnie; and Chrysalis House Inc., which wants to expand itsalcoholic recovery center for women and their children at 8148 Jumpers Hole Road in Elvaton.
Chrysalis House now has 10 beds and plansto expand to 29.
* Appointed Neall's nominations to the seven-member, voter-mandated Spending Affordability Committee. The members are:
David Roe of Linthicum, a credit manager and purchasing agent; Daniel Klosterman of Millersville, an accountant and former assistant county auditor; Retired Lt. Col. Henry R. Bellinger of Odenton, building manager for the Financial Management Service of the U.S. Treasury Department; Robert C. Douglas of Pasadena, an attorney and former spokesman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer; Bennett H. Shaver of Arnold, retired executive director of the Maryland State Retirement Systems; Margaret Clarke of Annapolis, chairwoman of the council's old spending affordability committee; and C. Richard Derrick of Galesville, an insurance and financial planner.
The committee has until March 15 to report on the state of public finances.