With a bulging fiscal 1991 deficit and difficulties balancing the 1992 proposal, some residents have suggested the Carroll commissioners should give back the $8,000 "raises" they received in December.
That cry grew a bit louder the other week when the commissioners froze county employees' salaries for fiscal 1992 as part of budget cutbacksand an attempt to avoid layoffs faced by neighboring jurisdictions.
Similar salary giveback suggestions were made to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, legislators and other state officials.
Most, including the governor, declined. A few, such as House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, voluntarily gave back some money.
While the amount saved was extremely small, the move was symbolic. It showed someofficials were willing to share the sacrifices they are imposing on others through budget cuts.
But the case of our commissioners is not the same. While Willie Don received the largest pay increase of all state employees when his annual salary jumped from $85,000 to $120,000, the commissioners' pay rose $8,000 -- to $30,000.
The last time the commissioners' salary rose was in 1982, when it went from $18,500 to $22,000. And by law, the current $30,000 cannot be raised again before 1994.
That means the $8,000 increase covers a 12-year period -- or an average increase of only 3 percent. That's considerably lower than the inflation rate and less than half the average annual raises county employees have received during the past eight years.
While some would say a $30,000 salary is significant for a part-time job, let's face it: Most of the time, Commissioners Dell, Lippy and Gouge work full-time.
And the $90,000 cost of our executive branch is the lowest in the area. Neighboring Frederick County is the next lowest, at $150,000; Baltimore City is the highest, exceeding $600,000. All have more council members; most also have a high-priced executive.
One other note: The $30,000 salary (especially for newcomers Dell and Lippy) was not a raise per se. The $30,000 salary was in effect when they ran for office.
Let's be fair. The trio has a difficult job -- and the salaries are not unreasonable.
So the County Commissioners do know the Heimlich maneuver.
Last week, I wrote that I was choking on four of the proposed budget cuts, which affected sex abuse victims and the elderly.
By coincidence, I ran into Commissioners Donald Dell and Elmer Lippy twice last weekend, at the Carroll County 4-H Demonstration Day and the Knights of Columbus dedication in Sykesville. That gave me two opportunities to chat with both about my concerns about the proposed reductions: $6,400 for meals forthe elderly; $18,800 for counseling of battered spouses and children; $30,000 for additional life-saving training for 911 operators; and $15,425 for home health-care visits.
Both men listened and indicated they already were considering restoring the money.
On Thursday,the first three cuts were restored. The Health Department's budget hearing isn't until this coming Thursday.
"We made a conscious effort find some money elsewhere in the budget," said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge. "Those social services have to be a priority."
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