Council again fails to reach accord on touchy subject of salaries

May 04, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Like moths flitting around a hot light while trying not to get burned, the Baltimore County Council came a bit closer yesterday to agreement on salaries for the next council and executive.

A few hours before its annual budget hearing at Loch Raven High School, the council failed for the second time in two weeks to decide the politically touchy issue.

A long discussion during a work session on their own budget appeared to produce a bare majority favoring no pay raise for council members elected in November, and a slowly growing consensus for an $85,000 salary for the next county executive. But no vote was taken. Council members now make $30,900 a year and Executive Roger B. Hayden is accepting $75,920.

The seven council members, including two running for executive and one retiring, began considering the pay issue in December, when the Personnel and Salary Advisory Board recommended that members of the next council get $36,600. Mr. Hayden proposed Dec. 29 that the executive's pay start at $75,920, rising in steps based on the percentage increases granted general county workers until it reached a ceiling of $85,000 by December 1997.

Since elected officials' pay legally may not be changed during a term of office, the issue must be settled before the elections later this year.

But pressures of election year politics have made for a tougher decision than usual. Voters angry about county taxes and spending threw out the executive and five council members in the 1990 elections.

The 1990 council had agreed on graduated pay increases that would have left current council members making $36,600 and the executive making $100,700 by this year. But the 1990 election and the recession that followed caused all new elected officials to reject their legal salaries.

Chairman William A. Howard 4th; Donald C. Mason of Dundalk, who is retiring; and Berchie Lee Manley of Catonsville agree on council salaries staying at $30,900. They seemed comfortable with $85,000 for the executive. Melvin G. Mintz of Pikesville, an executive candidate, wants $31,255 for the council and $75,000 for the executive.

Douglas B. Riley of Towson wants council members to get the same 4 percent pay increase that employees are getting this year, and stay at that level -- $32,136 -- with the executive's pay raised to $90,630. Vincent Gardina of Essex said he favors $34,917 for council members, but wasn't clear on the executive. Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Timonium, another executive candidate, refused to cite specific figures.

The smallest crowd in recent years, fewer than 200 people, attended the council's hearing on the $1.26 billion proposed budget at Loch Raven Senior High last night. Almost all of the 35 people who signed up to speak urged the council to approve intact the education and recreation spending requests, especially the $5.2 million proposed for schools in poor areas.

The council got a preview of conflicting pressures regarding the $1.26 billion budget after its regular legislative session Monday night.

John D. O'Neill, a leader in the 1990 property tax revolt that helped topple Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen and five council members, urged the council to cut the $2.865 property tax rate 10 cents by trimming a $17 million budget surplus.

Mr. O'Neill also advocated a 3 percent pay raise for county workers instead of the 4 percent Mr. Hayden has proposed and a cut of $8 million to $14 million in the education budget. Ray Suarez, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, called for full funding of the budget. "The proposed budget is a good first step in checking the damage done to Baltimore County public schools due to lack of funds," he said.

He also argued that the 4 percent pay raise is deserved since county workers got no general pay raises over the last three years.

The council's authority to cut is limited to the $899.2 million raised by county taxes and the piggyback income tax. Other funding comes from state and federal government.

The Hayden budget does not increase property taxes or the piggyback tax. It calls for 173 new teachers, $5.2 million for schools in low income areas, 20 more authorized police positions, money to open more libraries on Sundays and more capital budget money for school construction and renovation.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.