Panel due to urge raises Council members, executive to benefit

October 12, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Unless persuaded otherwise in a public hearing tomorrow night, the Howard County Compensation Review Commission plans to recommend raises for the county executive and members of the County Council elected in 1994.

The commission tentatively agreed in a work session last week to give the next county executive an $8,500 raise in increments of $2,125 a year, and to give new County Council members a $2,800 raise in $700-a-year increments.

The executive is paid $80,000 now. Council members receive $27,500, except for the chairman, who receives $1,000 more. The council elects a chairman each December.

The commission's preliminary numbers will not be aired at tomorrow's 7:30 p.m. hearing in the county office building.

"We haven't arrived at any decision," said Commission Chairman Delroy Cornick. "We want to hear from the citizens" about the salaries of local elected officials. "Hopefully, [commission members] won't talk, just listen."

The straw vote taken at last week's work session was to get a feel for members' thinking, Mr. Cornick said. Despite unanimous sentiment for the raises, the numbers may change after the public hearing, Mr. Cornick said.

One of the issues still to be decided is whether the county can pay the executive in increments. The county charter requires that the executive's pay remain constant during a four-year term.

Commission members have been provided an opinion from the state attorney general which says it is possible to grant elected officials pay raises during their terms if they have no control over the increases. The increases would have to be set in advance, as the commission proposes, or tied to something like a national cost of living index.

Mr. Cornick said he will ask the county's legal office to determine whether it is permissible to give the executive incremental raises, since the charter specifically forbids it.

In the past, the commission, which is appointed every four years to review the salaries of the executive and the council, has recommended a base salary for the entire four-year term.

If the commission finds it is illegal to grant incremental raises to the executive, it may not give them to the council either. In addition, the commission may change the overall numbers if the raises cannot be incremental.

Commission members felt it was inappropriate to give elected officials a greater annual increase than other county employees BTC are receiving. In January, county employees are expected to receive a 2.5 percent cost of living increase, their first in three years. The $8,500 increase tentatively recommended for the executive amounts to a 10.6 percent increase overall -- 2.7 percent a year if paid in increments. The council increase is slightly lower. It would amount to 10.2 percent overall, or 2.5 percent annually.

The commission expects to report to the council in November. The council may increase the commission's executive recommendation or decrease it.

It takes a majority vote to increase the amount recommended, and a two-thirds vote to decrease it.

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