Pay satisfies council

Most county councilmen say they'll decline to pass a recommended cost-of-living raise

December 18, 2005|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

A majority of Anne Arundel County Council members agree with a committee's recent finding that their positions should remain part-time, but they oppose a recommendation for a cost-of-living raise, saying they are adequately compensated.

In a report released last week to the County Council, the Salary Standard Commission recommended 2 percent cost-of-living increases annually during the tenure of the next elected council, starting in 2006.

Under the proposal, the pay for the council chairman would go from $40,500 to $43,829 in 2010. The vice chairman's salary would rise from $37,000 to $40,050 in that same period. Other council members' salaries would increase from $36,000 to $38,968.

Although the cost-of-living recommendations are in line with what other county employees have received in the past four years - between 7 percent and 13 percent - County Council Chairman Edward R. Reilly said he will not pursue making the changes law, and would not vote for the salary increase if such legislation is brought before the council.

"We aren't doing it for the money," Reilly, a Crofton Republican, said Friday of his council responsibilities. "I'm not going to advocate for a raise. The money on the table is sufficient."

The seven-member Salary Standards Commission, led by lawyer Frederick C. Sussman, unanimously supported keeping the council positions part-time after conducting interviews with council members and their staff, and comparing the responsibilities of colleagues in neighboring jurisdictions.

Several council members also agreed with that conclusion, so professionals could be enticed to run without the prospect of quitting their day jobs - and potentially taking a large pay cut. Of the seven council members, only Democrat Barbara D. Samorajczyk does not hold a day job.

"One of the concerns is that [candidates] would need to leave their careers ... [anywhere] between four and eight years," said County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat who owns an insurance business. "People with really good positions and successful businesses would not leave them."

Also, given that the County Charter gives most authority to the county executive for running the government, members said their responsibilities are limited.

"The citizens don't want a full-time County Council because they don't want a council to create additional laws to justify its existence," said County Councilman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a Pasadena Republican. Dillon helps run his family business, Dillon's Bus Service.

The council is required to form a commission on the eve of the election cycle every four years to determine the pay, benefits and other compensation for its successor. The commission ruled that other aspects of the council's pay and benefits are "fair and reasonable." For example, the commission said $350 monthly vehicle allowance remains adequate.

The council went along with a commission's recommendations in 2001 to boost its pay by nearly 26 percent. That move brought the council's salary in line with surrounding jurisdictions.

Dillon and fellow Republican Councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks, of Severn, also said they wouldn't vote for a raise. Middlebrooks runs a private law practice. Samorajczyk said the pay increase is modest enough to support but has no objections in keeping her current salary.

"The compensation is such that it's sufficient to attract a broad range of people," Samorajczyk said.

Beidle agreed that the current salary was adequate. But she said voting against a small cost-of-living increase may trigger the need for a sizable raise four years from now - which could prove political untenable for the next council.

Reilly, while opposed to making the recommendations law, said he would welcome more discussion on the matter. Like Beidle, Reilly runs an insurance business.

County Councilman Bill D. Burlison, an Odenton Democrat who is also an attorney, considered the recommendations "very conservative."

"I see no problem that this gets passed," he said during the council session Tuesday.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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