Much ado about perks in Carroll

June 01, 1994

With the assorted problems facing Carroll County -- growth, lack of jobs, crowded schools, road congestion -- the issue being made of per diem and mileage payments to its commissioners makes little sense.

The amount of money -- which averages about $10 a day -- has already generated derisive pot shots and insulting comments from some residents. If the commissioners' overall compensation is considered, these payments are meager sums, not a financial bonanza.

The Carroll County commissioners generally work more than 40-hour weeks on public business and are paid $30,000 a year. Their county responsibilities are time-consuming and don't permit them to have other employment. If the commissioners work a 40-hour week, they earn about $15 a hour -- not much considering they are responsible for managing a county budget of $142 million and a work force of more than 600 employees.

For each day they spend on county business, the commissioners receive a payment of $12. Under Maryland law, they receive this payment whether they are attending regularly scheduled county meetings or appearing at a community function during the weekend. In 1993, the three commissioners collected a grand total of $9,720 in per diem charges.

In addition to the per diem, the commissioners are reimbursed 20 cents a mile for the distance between their homes and the county office building.

This happens to be less than the 29 cents-a-mile automobile reimbursement the Internal Revenue Service allows. This perk cost the taxpayers $1,261. Providing the commissioners with county automobiles certainly would be more costly.

These sums are not significant in the overall scheme. If the public is disturbed that Carroll is the only remaining county in Maryland that has such payments, they ought to be eliminated. But the commissioners' pay then should be increased so it is commensurate with their responsibility.

When part-time council members in Baltimore County are earning $30,000, Carroll's pay for full-time commissioners is inadequate by any fair measure.

If Carroll taxpayers believe that stopping these payments will end wasteful county spending, they will be sorely disappointed. Raising the commissioners' pay is, in fact, the best way to eliminate these nettlesome per diem and mileage payments.

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