City Council President Mary Pat Clarke is proposing a 24 percent salary increase for members of the next council, but she wants to postpone the raise until July 1, 1992.
Clarke's proposal would increase council salaries from $29,000 to $36,065 a year. Normally, such an increase would take effect in December, when a newly elected council is sworn in. The salary for the council is set at the beginning of the four-year term and remains constant for that period.
But, in light of a wage freeze imposed on city employees for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Clarke wants to postpone the council's raise until July 1, 1992.
Normally, a council in the last year of its term approves a pay increase for the next council in June. The raise takes effect after the November general election. Because the Maryland Constitution prohibits a legislative body from voting on a pay increase during its term of office, the new salary remains constant for the new council's four-year term.
Council raises are included, by City Charter requirement, in the mayor's budget bill known as the Ordinance of Estimates.
But, since the proposed increase wouldn't be included in the fiscal 1992 budget but would take effect seven months into the new term, Clarke introduced separate legislation last night that would set the salary for the next term.
"I wanted to get the issue out front before the city elections this fall so the voters know about it," said Clarke. "I didn't want to wait and spring it on the voters after the new council is voted into office."
The legislation does not include an increase for the council president. Clarke said she will remain at her current salary of $53,000 for the next four years, assuming she is re-elected.
Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who is not seeking a raise in his $60,000 salary, questioned the legality of Clarke's action, saying it seems to circumvent the charter.
The mayor said that when council members approve the fiscal 1993 budget -- the first time the increase will appear -- they will be technically voting on their own pay raise.
Schmoke said that if the council passes the bill, he will seek an opinion from the city solicitor before deciding whether to sign it.
Clarke brushed aside the mayor's legal questions. "We've done our homework. We researched this all the way to the state attorney general's office and I am confident we have a bill that is legally sound," she said.
Last month, Schmoke got city employees to accept a freeze on negotiated wage increases to help close a revenue shortfall of $54.1 million and balance his proposed $2.05 billion budget for fiscal year 1992. The freeze saved the city $38.1 million.
Asked if he thought the proposed pay increase for the council might send the wrong message to city employees and taxpayers, the mayor said, "Council members will have to deal with that. I decided to forgo a salary increase so I'm stuck with my present salary for another four years."
Cheryl Boykins Glenn, president of the City Union of Baltimore, said municipal employees have no guarantee that they will get salary increases even in fiscal year 1993.
Bernard "Buzz" Murphy, director of legislative reference, said if the council passes the legislation but municipal employees don't get pay raises in fiscal year 1993, council members can always return their pay increase to the city as a donation.
Councilman John A. Schaefer, D-1st, said if city employees do not get raises in 1993, he would be in favor of returning his pay raise.
"Otherwise, it wouldn't be fair to city employees," he said.
Council members such as Schaefer and Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd, whose sole or main source of income is their council salary, said they welcome a pay increase.
"It would be tough to go for another four years without an increase, especially when you have young kids to support like I do," said Cunningham. "This is a full-time job for me and I think I've done a good enough job representing the residents of my district and the city that I deserve a raise."
Clarke said the proposed increased is based on what a member of the Managerial And Professional Society, an association which represents management, would be making as of July 1, 1992.
"When the council members of this term took office in December 1987, a MAPS employee was earning $29,000 and that is the increase council members received at that time," said Clarke.
Clarke said she used the salary schedule for MAPS because council members receive essentially the same fringe benefits as do MAPS employees.
The proposed salary increase of $7,065 would be the second highest increase in dollars that council members have received in 20 years. The largest was in 1987 when the salary rose by $10,000, from $19,000 to $29,000.
In 1971, a council member's salary stood at $6,500. It rose to $12,000 in 1975, to $16,000 in 1979 and to $19,000 in 1983.