Council backs raise for appeals board

Current $6,500 maximum would nearly double if plan gets final OK

January 13, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County's Board of Appeals members should get a long-awaited and hefty pay increase July 1, the County Council tentatively agreed yesterday.

With one member absent, the council endorsed a request for nearly double the current $6,500 maximum the five board members now can receive.

The request would be part of the council's annual budget, and if approved by County Executive James N. Robey would take effect July 1.

FOR THE RECORD - An article yesterday in the Howard County edition of The Sun about a proposed pay increase for members of the Howard County Board of appeals incorrectly stated the mileage reimbursement rate they receive. Members get $32.5 cents a mile. The Sun regrets the error.

New board chairman Robert C. Sharps requested a pay raise in a letter to the council, noting that the pay hasn't increased in 12 years, while "the work of the board has increased substantially since that time."

Sharps said he spends 20 to 25 hours a week on board business, but is paid a base salary of $2,000, plus $45 a board meeting, and an extra $20 for any meeting that goes later than 11 p.m.

The new proposal would increase the base pay to $4,500 and pay members $90 a meeting, but eliminate the late-night differential. Sharps said that as chairman, he intends to end that practice anyway, because late sessions don't work well.

Ronald S. Weinstein, council auditor, said the changes would raise the maximum to $12,900 a year, a level with which council members appeared comfortable.

"I wouldn't do that job," said Council Chairwoman Mary C. Lorsung, a west Columbia Democrat. "Clearly it [the pay] needs to be increased."

Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican, agreed.

"I do think it's a job harder than our job," Kittleman said. "I would support this increase."

C. Vernon Gray, an east Columbia Democrat, said: "They work an inordinate amount of hours and take more abuse than we take."

Information that council staff members supplied showed that Howard's salaries lag far behind neighboring jurisdictions.

In Baltimore County, members earn $14,000 a year, and the chairman gets $16,000, while in Montgomery, members earn $11,900, while the chairman gets $17,400.

Baltimore County's board has seven members, but only three must be present for any hearing, and board members are not required to visit the sites in zoning cases. All hearings in Baltimore and Montgomery counties are daytime sessions.

In Howard, all meetings are held at night, and 25 of the 77 sessions last year ran later than 11 p.m. Board members must visit sites in Howard County, though they get $3.25 a mile in expenses.

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