Bigger raises sought for 11 Ruppersberger wants 6% to 23% boost for Baltimore Co. officials

'Leadership has a value'

Most workers due 3% in July '98

critics less vocal this year

April 20, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A small group of Baltimore County officials is due to get big raises.

In a year when all county employees except police officers will receive 3 percent raises or bonuses, 11 top appointees would see their pay jump from 6 percent to 23 percent under County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's proposed budget. Their raises, which come in addition to a 3 percent bonus, would range from $2,400 to $11,500.

"I want high-quality people managing our departments," Ruppersberger said.

In contrast to last year, his moves are not drawing much criticism. Unlike last year, when most county workers got no raises, police and school board employees would get 4.5 percent and 3 percent raises, respectively, while others would get more benefits and the 3 percent bonus. In addition, the 1,600 police officers would get the one-time bonus boosting their increase to 7.5 percent.

Still, Kevin B. O'Connor, firefighters union local president, noted that the police and fire chiefs would be getting large identical raises, while raises for rank-and-file officers and firefighters aren't close to being equal.

"It is bitingly ironic that the county executive should deem it appropriate to pay the fire and police chiefs the same. If parity is good enough for the chiefs, then I don't know why it's not good enough for us," he said.

Ruppersberger's plan won support from Councilman Louis L. DePazzo, a conservative Dundalk Democrat whose criticism of raises and perks for top officials was the scourge of former Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen.

"I've changed my view somewhat, particularly when it comes to leaders," said DePazzo, a Ruppersberger fan. "Leadership has a value."

Most other councilmen and employee union leaders deferred comment or had no strenuous objections.

"I'm not going to micromanage," said Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat.

Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican, complained mildly. "I continue to have concerns about giving department heads raises when we haven't given it to front-line people," he said, noting that the council can't cut individual raises. The council must vote on the budget by June 1. If approved, the raises would take effect in July 1998.

Other union leaders are satisfied and looking forward to Ruppersberger's promise of a 3 percent raise for everyone.

"Our group did real well," said Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of Local 921 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Like other county workers, the department heads and appointees would get a 3 percent bonus, which for them can amount to as much as $2,850.

Raises of $11,500 each for the fire and police chiefs would give them salaries of $103,000; they would also get bonuses of $2,745 each. Currently, only the county school superintendent, health officer and library director make $100,000 or more.

Twenty top officials, excluding the fire and police chiefs, will lose their county cars -- a move the county made because of the complexity of federal tax regulations. They will get $4,320 more each year in exchange.

Four department heads -- in law, permits, budget and economic development -- are slated for $4,180 raises, bringing them to $92,180. Public works chief Charles R. Olsen would get $180 more, a technical change to bring his pay to $98,680 -- the same amount Ruppersberger executive officer Michael H. Davis will get after receiving a $3,680 raise. With their annual car allowances, both would also cross the $100,000 line.

Four other top staff appointees are also to get raises, ranging from $2,400 for Stephen L. Kirchner, chief financial officer, to $8,007 for Margaret Z. Ferguson, labor commissioner. Educational liaison Dianne L. Gilbert is slated for a $7,856 raise above her salary of $40,144, and a $1,204 bonus, a 23 percent increase. John M. Wasilisin, director of the Office of Employment and Training, would get $2,861 and a bonus.

The raises would trigger increases for the council secretary, Thomas J. Peddicord Jr., and auditor Brian J. Rowe because of an agreement linking their pay to salaries of the budget director and the county attorney.

Under that agreement, Peddicord and Rowe got hefty raises Jan. 1, from $79,500 to $88,000. If the council approves, their pay would rise again to $92,150 -- an overall $12,650 increase.

Davis said Ruppersberger believes the public safety chiefs should make more money than most other department heads because their functions are the most vital in government and they had slipped behind other executive salaries.

Others targeted for raises, Ruppersberger said, either do more work or have new responsibilities.

Pub Date: 4/20/97

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