Modest raises favored for council and executive Pay would go up about 2.5% in each of 4 annual steps under recommendation

November 14, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The County Council and the county executive elected in 1994 should receive modest raises, according to a 13-page report that the Howard County Compensation Review Commission sent the council Friday.

The report makes official the seven-member commission's tentative recommendation that the pay of incoming council members be increased by $2,800 in four $700-a-year steps and that the next executive's pay be raised $8,500 in increments of $2,125 a year.

Council members now receive $27,500, except for the annually elected chairman, who receives $1,000 more. The executive is paid $80,000.

The recommended raises would amount to about 2.7 percent a year for the executive and 2.5 percent for the council.

Although they would ultimately amount to increases of 10.6 percent for the executive and 10.2 percent for council members, the raises would cost the county $5,625 the first year and $22,500 overall, commission Chairman Delroy Cornick told his fellow commissioners during a discussion of the report last week.

Until now, raises for the county's incoming elected officials were paid in full the first year. The salary then remained constant at the new rate for the entire term.

The commission wants to change to a system of incremental raises. It sent the council an eight-page legal opinion from the county solicitor, saying that it is permissible to provide fixed increases if the amount of each year's salary is adopted before the new term and cannot be changed by incoming officials.

The sluggish state of the economy and the fact that county employees were laid off and furloughed as a result seemed to weigh heavily in the commission's decision-making. Commissioners were not eager to recommend that council members or the executive receive better raises than county employees will receive in January.

Still, commissioners believed some raise was justified.

Although technically part-time legislators, council members told the commission that they are always on call because of their multiple responsibilities.

They also are members of the Zoning and Liquor boards. In addition, their legislative and constituent work has increased because the population has grown, council members told the commission.

The commission reviewed council salaries in seven other Maryland jurisdictions for comparison.

Howard County pays council members less than do Baltimore, Montgomery or Prince George's counties. It pays more than Anne Arundel, Harford and Queen Anne's counties.

The county executive is the third highest-paid executive among the seven jurisdictions, trailing his colleagues in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

In determining the executive's recommended raise, commissioners did not believe the executive should be the highest-paid official, but should be paid a salary within the range of the highest appointees.

None is paid more than $86,785 now, although top scale is $98,164 for the county administrator and $91,156 for two other appointees.

The council is to conduct a public hearing on the commission's recommendations Dec. 20 and vote on them Jan. 3.

The council may reject or reduce the amount recommended for council salaries, but may not increase it. It may increase the amount recommended for the executive's salary by a majority vote, but may not decrease it unless two-thirds of the council agrees.

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