Town manager argues employee's pay must be competitive with other areas

CROFTON BALKS AT COSTLIER COUNSELING

November 30, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

A proposal to give Crofton's psychological counselor a rais almost three times more than what the community's eight other employees are getting is not sitting well with civic association board members.

The 13-member board of directors is scheduled to debate the salary issue tonight as part of budget deliberations.

From all indications, Town Manager Jordan Harding will have to come up with convincing evidence to get Counselor Linda R. Smith a $2,200 raise, which would bring her salary in fiscal year 1994 to $29,290. The raise includes a 2.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

Mr. Harding proposed the 8.1 percent raise because, he said, Ms. Smith's salary isn't competitive with what colleagues in surrounding communities make.

The salary for someone with six years' experience can be as much as $35,000, he said.

"We have to find out if what Jordan Harding says holds water," said board member Jon Grant. "If it does, we will act accordingly. If it doesn't, it is unlikely we will allow that kind of an increment."

Crofton, a special tax district, has had a community counselor for years. The service is free to its residents, who see Ms. Smith for a variety of reasons, from alcoholism to family problems to drug abuse.

In 1989, some board members attempted to eliminate the position and hire an independent contractor. The action was met with a barrage of criticism from residents, who picketed a board meeting and overwhelmingly voted the proposal down at a special meeting.

But the rumblings are back. Some residents don't like their taxes paying for the service, said board member Cathy Trebelhorn, who has heard from people opposing the raise.

"You know where they are coming from," she said, adding that her inclination "is to support the salary increase. The information we have is that the counselor is not earning the equivalent of what they earn in Bowie, Greenbelt or the state."

Mr. Harding, who has laced his budget package with employee incentives, complains that the community counselor issue has been "blown out of proportion.

"It is to me a mediocre raise," he said. "It's extremely frugal. She's still way behind. I'm going to stand up for my employees. Somebody has got to fight for them."

Mr. Harding is proposing a 2.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment for the remaining employees, including the five police officers, and wants money for merit raises and an upgrade in the pension plan.

But some board members feel it is unfair to single out the #F counselor for an additional increase.

Kathy Puhak pointed out that Barbara Swann, the comptroller, will get nothing more than the 2.9 percent cost-of-living increase, despite working for Crofton for 23 years.

"I am personally opposed to the 8 percent for one position," Ms. Puhak said. "I feel that if it going to be offered, it should be offered across the board."

Other board members interviewed said they are concerned that the increase skips a step in the pay scale, which was just implemented last year. And others say they simply want to remain frugal during tough economic times.

"People say this is a very rich community," said John Maloney, the civic association vice president. "But we have to look at this very seriously. I think 8 percent is a little high in today's economy."

Mr. Harding is proposing a 7 percent budget increase, from $532,000 to $570,000.

But board members interviewed all said they will make cuts to bring the increase under the 5 percent cap to avoid calling a special town meeting.

They already have agreed to cut a $4,000 water pump for Lake Louise and have tentatively decided to give employees the 2.9 percent cost-of-living increase, but some members are not willing to pay for Mr. Harding's proposed increase in pension plan contributions.

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