Westminster mayor backs 'catch-up' raises

January 07, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Westminster's 120 city government employees will have the mayor's support for "catch-up" raises this year to equalize their salaries with increases in the cost of living since 1991.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown conceded yesterday that he hasn't supported full cost-of-living raises for city workers in the past three years. But this year is different, he said.

"The economic indicators appear to be better this year," Mr. Brown said. "If we're in a situation where our revenues are up and state government cutbacks are not [expected], we should go ahead and catch our employees up."

The mayor said during remarks at the annual holiday luncheon for city employees that salary increases since the 1991-1992 fiscal year hadn't been as high as he had hoped. He calculated that salaries have fallen 5.2 percent short of increases in the Consumer Price Index for the Baltimore metropolitan area since the 1991-1992 city budget year.

The luncheon is a city government tradition. Employees receive service awards, new employees are recognized and the mayor speaks. The 1993 luncheon drew about 90 government workers. City workers traditionally receive the rest of the afternoon off.

A majority of the City Council remains cautious about what employees can expect in their paychecks for 1994-1995. But City Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein, who argued for a 2.4 percent cost-of-living raise this year, said she would support the proposed increases.

"If government is not a just and fair employer, then God help us," Ms. Orenstein said. "I see people in Westminster city government working very hard."

The council compromised on 1.5 percent raises this year. Employees below the top of the nine-step city longevity and merit scale got the 1.5 percent increases plus 5 percent step increases with satisfactory job evaluations. Those at the top of the scale got 1.5 percent.

Council President Kenneth A. Yowan supported raises higher than this year's, but he said he could not specify a figure. Mr. Yowan cautioned that he is waiting to see how property reassessments will affect the city's tax base.

Mr. Yowan said that his own property assessment was lowered. "It was good news as a homeowner, but, putting on my council hat, I'm not sure what impact that will have on us," he said.

Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr., who has indicated that he also may run for county commissioner -- Mayor Brown is a declared candidate -- said that it is premature to consider employee raises now.

Councilman Damian L. Halstad said he couldn't comment because he hasn't been through a city budget process yet. Councilman Edward S. Calwell could not be reached.

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