Anne Arundel Housing Authority Forgoes Some Raises

Agency Follows Cost-of-living Lead Of City Counterpart

May 14, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

The county's public housing workers soon are likely to learn that parity cuts two ways.

Last year, the Anne Arundel Housing Authority gave its employees an 11 percent raise to bring salaries in line withcomparable county positions, as recommended by federal guidelines. But it plans to follow the county government in abstaining from cost-of-living increases in the next fiscal year, finance director Sandra A. Ervin said.

Maintenance workers and other employees, who are scrambling to renovate and lease boarded-up units in the seven housing projects, probably will get only merit raises this year, even though their salariesstill lag behind those paid to county employees.

"I don't anticipate any cost-of-living increases," said Ervin, who still is drafting the budget because she's also serving as the acting executive director.

The Annapolis Housing Authority also didn't budget any cost-of-living increases, for the first time in years, accountant Matthew Whitney said. Every year since fiscal 1989 it has given employees the same 5 percent increase received by city workers.

A lean $3.9 million budget -- the bulk of which is earmarked for maintaining the city's10 low-income projects -- was approved by the board of commissionerslast week. Nearly 60 percent of the budget has been set aside for maintenance and utilities, while 22 percent underwrites administrative costs and salaries.

In contrast with the county authority, which is struggling to overcome high vacancy rates, 99 percent of Annapolis'1,103 units were occupied last year, netting the authority nearly $2.4 million in rent. Coupled with conservative financial management, the low vacancy rate will allow the authority to boost its $800,000 reserve by another $50,290.

The county housing authority's growing number of vacant units costs much-needed revenue last year. While giving its 43 employees an 11 percent pay raise, the agency lost rent income and matching subsidies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for each empty unit.

Forced to renovate heavily damaged units, some vacant since 1988 and others rehabbed several times, the authority spent about $696,000 on maintenance in fiscal 1991, a 17 percent increase over the $576,800 spent in fiscal 1990.

Meanwhile, the agency's financial reserves dropped by 16 percent, from $741,033 in fiscal 1989 to an estimated $624,673 by the end of fiscal 1990, budget documents show.

June C. Waller, who was asked to resign as executive director in January, decided to dip into the reserves to pay for long-deferred maintenance. Many of the agency's 1,026 units had gone without fresh paint and other repairs for years, she said last summer.

The authority was faulted by HUD three years ago for letting its reserve fund plummet from a high of $770,000 in January 1987 to $531,000 in June 1988. Federal officials also criticized the agency for rewarding its top management with steep pay raises that drained money from needed repairs. The salaries of seven top administrators jumped as much as 22 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 1988, while maintenance spending dropped $10,000.

Authority Chairman Charles St. Lawrence said last year's raises were given to rank-and-file employees. He said this year's spending plan, expected at about $2 million, should be submitted before September.

The Annapolis authority's Whitney said budgets must be delivered to Housing and Urban Development at least 45 days before the fiscal year ends June 30. A spokeswoman for the HUD regional office in Baltimore could not be reached to explain the different opinions on the budget deadline.

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