Officials' salaries to be subject of hearing Proposal would put city leaders' wages on par with county pay

November 09, 1995|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Though it looks likely that a 24 percent raise for all elected officials will win approval by the Baltimore City Council on Monday, taxpayers will get a chance to add their two cents' worth in a 10 a.m. public hearing at City Hall today.

Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, who drafted the raise proposal and who will head the hearing, said his aim is to make the pay comparable with that of surrounding county council members.

The proposal would increase the annual salaries from $29,000 to $36,000.

"This raise is long overdue," said Mr. Curran, who will retire from the council in December. "If we don't get it done now, it will be another four years."

The 19-member council can only raise elected officials' salaries every four years, and raises can go into effect only for the next elected council.

Mr. Curran's raise proposal must be approved by the council and signed by the mayor before Dec. 4, the last day of this four-year council term. The last raise for elected officials was in 1987.

An overwhelming majority of the council supports the proposal, which includes a 33 percent increase for the mayor and increases of 22 percent for both the city council president and the comptroller.

Mr. Curran said raises have been stymied for so long because of suspected voter outrage and because of the city's long-standing money crunch.

Always a sensitive issue with voters, the raise proposal was whisked through the Oct. 23 council meeting without discussion. And today's hearing, which could have been held anytime after that council meeting, was scheduled for after Tuesday's election.

Second District Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch said that council members treat their positions as full-time jobs and that few people would stay in a position that has paid the same since 1987.

"The council has not had an increase for eight years," said Councilwoman Branch. "The constituents for some reason are not that sympathetic toward us. They won't look at the whole picture."

Irene B. Dandridge, co-president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, offered an explanation of the voters' lack of sympathy. It's "because everybody is hanging by their fingernails," said Mrs. Dandridge, who is angry about a 100-teacher layoff that may occur because of the school budget shortfall. "I can't see the city council or the mayor" considering a raise, she said. "If we are in this together, then we all have to take our lumps."

Funding the proposed city raises amounts to only $139,000, "so the fiscal impact would not be that much," said city budget director Edward J. Gallagher.

The raise would increase the mayor's salary from $60,000 to $80,000, and the council president's and comptroller's salaries from $53,000 to $65,000.

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