Council ready to OK raises

Balto. County panel would get more pay than some in area

`Retain quality people'

May 17, 2001|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

The payoff is likely to grow sweeter for candidates who win elected office in Baltimore County.

The County Council is expected to approve legislation this month that would increase the salary of the county executive from $105,000 to $125,000. Salaries for council members would grow from $38,500 to $45,000, and the council chairman's pay would rise to $50,000, from $43,000.

Council members have buffered themselves from the inevitable criticism that accompanies pay raises for politicians.

They've kept the compensation below that of their counterparts in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties -- the jurisdictions used for comparison by a study panel.

They are scheduled to vote on the new pay scale the same day they approve a budget that includes a property tax reduction worth at least $10.5 million.

The 17 percent increase in compensation for what is technically a part-time position would keep pay for council members well above that of most rank-and-file county employees. An office assistant in the Department of Aging will earn $25,000 next year; a 911 office coordinator, $33,000.

"I don't have a problem with them making the money," said Nick Haynes, president of the county Federation of Public Employees, which represents 1,500 workers. "I just hope they understand when the rest of the county employees ask for the same consideration."

Voters won't have a say on the issue. The county charter authorizes pay to be set by statute, although officials can't vote on their income. Those elected in November 2002 will receive the proposed salaries. The last round of raises occurred in 1998.

County officials based the pay proposal on a recommendation from a personnel advisory board, which reviewed data compiled by the University of Maryland Institute for Governmental Service.

The Baltimore City Council raised the bar in December 1999 when it increased salaries for council members from $37,000 to $48,000, and for the mayor from $95,000 to $125,000. County Council members will remain well below the $63,700 earned by the legislative branch in Montgomery and the $54,000 in Prince George's.

"It's a balancing act between trying to attract and retain quality people, and providing fiscal responsibility to the citizens of Baltimore County," said Antony J. Sharbaugh, the county human resources director and secretary to the personnel board.

Although all seven current council members have other jobs, they say they work nearly full time in their elected posts, handling constituent complaints and attending community meetings in the evening.

"We're mini-mayors in our areas," said Council Chairman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat. "No one I know is doing the job for the money."

The raises would place Baltimore County officials above those in several other neighboring counties. The Howard County executive will earn $98,500 beginning in December, and council pay will be $33,800. In Anne Arundel County, the executive's pay will be $102,000 in December; council salaries are $28,660. The salary of the Harford County executive is scheduled to rise from $65,000 to $85,000 after the 2002 election; council members' pay will go from $18,500 to $29,000 at the same time under legislation approved in 1999.

Also after the 2002 election, Carroll County commissioners will receive $45,000, up from $32,500, under a state law approved in March.

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