Board votes CA president $10,000 raise, extension

Two-year budget plan proposed for efficiency


April 27, 2003|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

At the last meeting of the Columbia Association's current board of directors, the board extended President Maggie J. Brown's contract through April 2007 and awarded her a $10,000 raise to take effect in May next year.

Brown's salary is $130,000, which will rise to $137,800 in May, and her contract allows for additional bonuses. The agreement was signed April 11, and the board's management appraisal committee Chairwoman Pearl Atkinson-Stewart announced Thursday night that Brown had accepted the terms of the contract.

"The board cannot articulate more the deep appreciation for Maggie Brown for a tremendous effort with the board" in working toward the association's accomplishments, Atkinson-Stewart said.

Brown is in her third year as president of the homeowners association that has a nearly $50 million budget and provides recreational amenities to its residents.

The Columbia Association board hired Brown at a salary of $125,000 in February 2001 to serve through February of this year. The board increased her pay to $130,000 in April of last year.

By comparison, Howard County Executive James N. Robey's salary is $125,000.

Brown's contract also includes the association providing her with a car, a Buick Century, for her "exclusive use in the performance of [her] duties." When her contract ends -- as long as she has not been fired -- the car's ownership will be transferred to Brown.

The association also provides package plan-plus memberships, valued at $1,062 for a new two-member household, to Brown and her husband for "the remainder of [their] lives," as long as Brown's contract is not terminated. The membership allows them access to most of the association's facilities, including three gyms, 23 outdoor pools and two golf courses.

Before she was hired as president, Brown served for eight years as the association's vice president of community services. Brown said she is looking forward to continuing serving Columbia's 95,000 residents and working with the association board and staff.

"I want to continue to enhance the quality of life for people who live and work in Columbia," she said.

On Thursday night, the board -- which also acts as the Columbia Council -- also voted on a number of proposals before leaving office.

The new 10-member board, elected yesterday, will meet for the first time Thursday to choose a chairman and vice chairman.

In a 6-3 vote, with one member abstaining, the board directed association staff to outline a two-year budget pilot program. The details will be presented to the incoming board, which likely will vote on implementing the program.

The association approves capital and operating budgets annually. Brown has endorsed moving to a biennial budget, explaining that the association is primarily maintaining its facilities and has no plans to construct major facilities.

Rob Goldman, the association's vice president for sport and fitness, told the board that working on budgets every two years would free his staff to focus on community programs for association members.

"September through February every year, we're bogged down with the budget," he said. "We're not serving residents to have a budget every year."

However, board member Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills said her village board was unanimously opposed to the association switching to a two-year budget process because the Oakland Mills representative has a one-year term. The village board members worried that may limit their village's influence. (Seven board members have two-year terms; the other three have one-year terms.)

"They think the representative elected from Oakland Mills ought to each year have a budget to vote on," Russell said.

But board Chairman Miles Coffman pointed out that despite some villages having one-year terms, each village will still have a representative present during every budget process.

"I would be for going through [a two-year budget process]," he said. "It gets this board to focus on policy-setting."

The council also voted, 6-4, to change its meeting structure to conduct official board and council business at only one monthly meeting. The council still will meet a second time each month, and the format of those meetings -- they could be used for informal roundtable discussions or work sessions -- will be discussed at the council's retreat next weekend.

For the past year, the council has been dedicating one of its monthly meetings to association business. The other monthly meetings have focused on its strategic planning process.

"We're going to meet twice a month," Coffman said. "We'll just have a more effective use of our time."

The council also unanimously voted to approve the charter for the association's new environmental matters subcommittee.

The committee was formed after a public uproar about a fox being trapped in a steel-jawed, leg-hold trap near the association's Fairway Hills Golf Club.

In February, the board voted to ban the use of leg-hold traps and other such maiming devices. The environmental matters committee will report to the council's open-space committee. Its goals include informing and advising the council on environmental issues, including stormwater runoff and water quality, wildlife management and energy and fuel use.

Thursday night was the last meeting for Councilmen Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance and Ed Stern of River Hill, who did not seek re-election. Through tears, Councilwoman Donna L. Rice of Town Center told the council, "I'm so sad to say that two people that I liked so much are not going to be with us."

Coffman said he thought the council worked collegially by not taking issues personally and that each member "brought a different personality" to the group.

"I think we set the bar higher," he said. "And next year we have to keep growing as a group."

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