They said it couldn't be done, but they did it.
Despite a legal opinion saying it is illegal for elected officials to cut their salaries, County Council members will cut their pay to help the county through its budget crisis.
Council members will give back 3 percent of their pay, Council Chairwoman Virginia Clagett, D-West River, said Monday night. The cut will be listed as a contribution to the county, and council members will be able to deduct the money from their income taxes.
In addition, council members also have decided to forgo $1,000 raises they would have received Dec. 1, bringing the total concession for each memberto 7 percent. Council members earn between $23,000 and $27,000.
"We can't cut our pay, so we must give back 7 percent of our salary," Clagett said.
A Howard County Office of Law opinion said state lawand county charters prohibit elected leaders from changing their salaries while in office. Council members and County Executive Robert R.Neall will get around the law by listing their salary reductions as contributions.
The council also will cut the salaries of all legislative branch employees, including the Board of Appeals and the County Auditor's office, by 3 percent. County Auditor Joe Novotny will take a 5 percent cut.
The council will introduce its budget reductionplan when it approves a new county budget Dec. 2. The council will conduct the first of three public hearings tonight on Neall's revised 1992 spending plan, which cuts county spending by $18.1 million and includes $6.1 million in wage concessions for 11,000 county and schoolemployees.
Before Monday's council meeting, council members DianeEvans, R-Arnold, and Carl "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, withdrew a resolution that would have asked Neall to give any money cut from the legislative branch to county employees who have agreed to wage concessions.
Evans and Holland introduced the bill two weeks ago, drawingcriticism from other council members who said they already had a spending plan and weren't consulted about the resolution.
Evans said she and Holland had sponsored the bill to get the council to focus its efforts.
"Everyone has been coming up with ideas independently for six weeks," Evans said. "Dutch and I really didn't offer anything new. The resolution was just a vehicle to get us together."