By including salary increases for 15 appointed officials in his proposed $1.36 billion budget, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III has gotten two things he did not want: public criticism and topsy-turvy pay scales.
Criticism of the raises -- which boosted the salaries of several department heads by 10.7 percent while many government employees received no raise -- came from Democrats and Republicans during a County Council budget debate last week.
The council sets salaries for the executive and administrative officer and has authority to cut the budget request, but it has no direct control over the salaries of department heads and other top appointed officials, whose raises total $77,430.
Instead of cutting the Ruppersberger request by a corresponding amount -- a reduction the administration could have absorbed in areas other than the salaries -- the councilmen decided to include their criticism in their annual budget message, which is to be issued tomorrow, when they vote on the spending plan.
Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican who was a confidant of Ruppersberger when the executive was a council member, brought up the issue of the pay raises. "It's poor management," he said. "It's not good for [employee] morale."
Some council members want a law to guarantee them a say on salaries, at least those offered to department heads hired between budgets.
The new public works director, for example, was hired at a salary of $98,500, and the director of environmental protection at $92,500 a year. Both of those salaries are more than $10,000 higher than those paid to the department heads' predecessors.
"When a change is made, it ought to be brought before that body that has the ultimate fiscal responsibility," said Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican. Democrats Joseph Bartenfelder of Fullerton and Stephen G. Sam Moxley of Catonsville agreed.
As a result of the raises granted by Ruppersberger -- and a cut in the executive's salary that he helped make as a councilman -- many of his appointees make more than the $90,000 he does.
Ruppersberger's administrative officer, Merreen E. Kelly, who, as the top appointed official, supervises all department heads, makes $84,900 -- and has not had a raise since December 1992.
That "sends a poor message," Ruppersberger said, adding that he thinks the executive and his administrative officer should be paid more than the people under them.
Thirteen department heads are paid more than Kelly, including five hired last year by Ruppersberger.
Former County Executive Roger B. Hayden, a Republican, had an official salary of $100,700 in 1994, his final year, but the council voted to cut the salary for the position. Ruppersberger, a council member then beginning his Democratic campaign to unseat Hayden, voted for the pay cut.
Riley said the raises "send the wrong message" to county workers "who have been banged around a bit the last few years."
The raises upset several county labor leaders because their members, mainly firefighters and white-collar workers, are not scheduled for general pay raises this year.
Most police officers are getting 4 percent raises, and teachers are getting increases averaging 1.5 percent. An additional 1,200 workers are due reclassification raises.
In this decade, county workers have received general cost-of-living increases twice, in January 1991 and July 1994.
Ruppersberger said 60 percent of county workers are getting some kind of pay raise this year and that police needed an increase to bring them into line with other police forces in the area.
Pub Date: 5/23/96