Manchester moving to redress lower salaries NORTH--Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

March 10, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Salaries of Manchester officials are significantly lower than those in Carroll towns of similar size, but Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. said Sunday he thinks the gap will be narrowed during the coming budget process.

"We are trying to change that," he said.

"After we get done with this new budget, I think everything will be a lot better. I really do."

Not counting bonuses, health insurance or other benefits, Manchester's town manager is paid $4,850 less than the Taneytown city manager, the next-lowest-paid in the county.

And the second-lowest paid clerk-treasurer in the county, in Mount Airy, makes about $1,200 more than the Manchester clerk-treasurer.

Manchester Town Manager Terry Short said he worries that the town will lose experienced employees to other municipalities that pay more.

"I think as jobs become more technical, it leaves us open to become a training ground for other jurisdictions that offer a higher rate of pay and/or a more favorable fringe benefit package," Mr. Short said.

Mayor Warehime said "it always enters your mind" that the town may lose employees to other towns.

But, he said, "The people that we've had poached have been poached by the county." He said those who left Manchester to work for the county had been police officers.

"We can't compete with the county," he added.

Mr. Warehime said, "We might do some work on the [police] chief's salary."

He said he thought compensation of the town's other police officers is closer to what is paid in other towns.

He said Manchester allows its employees to take $4,500 in lieu of health insurance if they choose. Because the police officers are retirees from Baltimore, they already have health insurance and can take the money, which brings their compensation to a competitive level, he said.

In addition to raises, the town has taken other steps to give employees a better benefits package, Mr. Short said. These steps included lengthening certain vacations and adding two holidays.

Mr. Short said he will propose fixed salary ranges and pay steps for each town position in the coming budget process.

The setting of salaries for newly hired town employees is now "somewhat arbitrary," he said, "because we haven't laid out a salary range and steps."

He said he hoped to have his proposal to the mayor and Town Council by March 17, for discussion at the March 24 council meeting. There will be a public hearing on the budget on March 24.

Mr. Short said he also will propose allowing town employees, except for the town manager, to receive small bonuses for suggestions that save money.

For example, he said, one employee suggested the town grow a commercial crop of canary reed grass, which is used for animal bedding, on its 170 acres of sewage spray fields. He said the sale of that crop should bring in several thousand dollars a year to the town treasury.

"We'd like to be able to give the person who thought of that a bonus," Mr. Short said.

Salaries account for about 35 percent of the Manchester budget, according to Mr. Short's figures.

Asked why Manchester's salaries are lower than those of other area towns, Mayor Warehime said, "Possibly, in the past, we did not take the giant step that the other towns took."

He also said wages and the cost of living are lower across the state line in Pennsylvania, and wages and costs in the northeast part of Carroll County are similarly low, reminiscent of figures from the 1960s and 1970s.

Mayor Warehime said raising Manchester's salaries to competitive levels is not something that can be done in one year.

He said the town has begun to raise compensation levels over the past two years.

"Three years ago," he said, "they were much further out of line than they are now."

He said he thought the council would support some salary increases this year. He said the council's record over the past two years shows that it favors bringing Manchester salaries more closely in line with what neighboring towns offer.

Except in some cases where an employee left and a new employee was hired, all Manchester positions received raises of pTC at least 4 percent in each of the past two years.

Some employees received larger increases. For example, last year, the zoning administrator received an 11.4 percent raise, and the town receptionist received a 13.8 percent raise.

If town salaries go up this year, the money to pay for them will likely come from a combination of sources.

Mr. Short said the money would come partly from water and sewer charges, and partly from the local real estate tax.

Mayor Warehime said the town may also decide to pass on to residents the county's waste-tipping fees. If it does, the fee would appear on the quarterly utility bill. At present rates, he said, the cost to the homeowner would be about $12 a quarter.

Mr. Short said the town paid about $53,880 last year to dump 1,347 tons of waste into the county landfill.

Mayor Warehime said passing on the tipping fee could also encourage recycling, and the more the town recycled, the lower everyone's tipping charge would be.

The mayor did not rule out the possibility the town's property tax rate would rise. It is now the lowest in the area, at 39 cents per $100 of assessed value.

"We're going to have to do something," he said, "but you can't hold me fast on a figure."

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