Letters to the Editor


May 02, 2004

Officers can't afford to live in county

As residents of Howard County, and the State of Maryland, it is imperative that the public be informed of certain important facts that are ignored by your elected officials. In particular, you should be aware of how underpaid your Howard County Police officers are. Some interesting research was done and the results illustrate how their current salary deficiencies make it impossible for them to even attempt to live life similar to the "average" county resident.

According to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors' MRIS, as of January 2004, the average price of a single-family home in Howard County is $348,991. At a fixed rate of 5.5 percent, over 30 years, that equates to a monthly mortgage payment of $1,981.53.

The NADA states that the national average price of a new car in 2002 was $26,150, with an average rate of a 48-month new car loan at 5.66 percent. Based on these rates, a Maryland resident can expect to pay $610 a month for a new vehicle.

In order to comply with state law, Maryland motorists must possess automobile insurance. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average annual premium for auto insurance in Maryland in 2001 was $783.77. That amounts to roughly $65 a month. Furthermore, in January 2004, the USDA stated that the average cost of food for a person between the ages of 20 and 50 is $196.30 a month.

Combining these figures, one can calculate that the average cost of living for a Howard County resident is $2,852.83 a month.

For fiscal year 2004, the starting salary for a Howard County police officer was $2,735.23 per month or $35,558 annually. When we compare the monthly figure for the average cost of living in Howard County to the average monthly income of a Howard County Police Officer, it clearly shows that the officers fall short of meeting their average annual living expenses by $1,411.20!

Sadly enough, this deficiency is before taxes, and these figures have not taken into consideration necessary living costs such as automobile fuel and household utilities.

As is readily apparent from these numbers, the officers that have chosen to serve and protect you, your family and your community are not only underpaid, but cannot sustain a lifestyle akin to the average Howard County resident.

These statistics underscore the unfortunate fact that our local police officers are grossly underpaid, and must live below the "average" county resident. Furthermore, not only are our officers forced to live below the average living standards, they have consistently been denied raises that would be on par with other area law-enforcement agencies located in counties that are not as economically stable as our own. This is startling, considering federal statistics have ranked Howard County as the seventh wealthiest county in the nation.

Day in and day out, these officers willingly serve the county and its residents regardless of extreme weather conditions or time of day. They are consistently taken from their families, absent on special occasions, holidays and family events, in order to serve the community. Frankly, these men and women have signed up for a job that very few of us would consider for the very reasons cited herein. And to what end? To maintain a less-than-average lifestyle for themselves, their spouses and their children? Furthermore, choosing to be a public servant should not justify this below-average lifestyle, or justify our representatives' refusal to reach pay parity with other local law-enforcement agencies.

James Fitzgerald

Ellicott City

The writer is president of the Howard County Police Officers Association

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