Arundel council to consider raises for next council, executive

September 02, 2014|By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun

A proposal to give pay raises to the next Anne Arundel County Council and the next county executive will be the subject of a hearing this week.

The proposal comes from Councilman Jamie Benoit, who is not running for re-election because of term limits.

For the county executive, Benoit's bill would increase the $130,000 salary to $165,000 over four years — an increase of nearly 27 percent.

For members of the council, increases for most members would be from $36,000 to $40,518 over four years, which is about a 12 percent raise.

Presiding officers also would get raises: The council chairman would see a bump from $40,500 to $45,583 and the vice-chairman's pay would be increased from $37,000 to $41,643. The council typically rotates those positions each year among members of the majority party, currently Republican.

Benoit said as the county government's finances were hit by the recession, neither the county executive nor the council members have seen raises in years. Council members, he noted, cut their own benefits.

"The county and its employees were hurting, and we wanted to lead by example," said Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat. Now that the economy is recovering and county employees have been given raises, it's time to consider raises for politicians, too, he said.

Benoit hasn't been lobbying his fellow council members on the issue. He thinks the raise for the county executive has a better chance of passing than raises for council members.

"It's not popular, I guess, to vote yourself a pay raise. In that regard, maybe the bills will fail," he said.

Councilman Chris Trumbauer, an Annapolis Democrat running for re-election, said the odds aren't great for the raises to pass, though he said he'd listen to Benoit's pitch at Tuesday's meeting.

"I don't sense a lot of enthusiasm for it on the council right now," he said. "I can't imagine it's going anywhere."

Council Chairman John Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican running for re-election, said he probably won't vote for the raises, although he thinks council members are underpaid. He said he donates his salary to charitable endeavors.

Councilman Dick Ladd, a Broadneck Republican, said he "tends not to favor" the council raises but would keep an open mind about the executive's salary. Ladd is leaving the council at the end of this year after losing his primary election.

Councilman Derek Fink, a Pasadena Republican seeking re-election, said he'll be a "no" vote on both bills. "I'm not looking for any more money," he said. "I think it's the wrong message right now."

According to their campaigns, neither of county executive hopefuls, Republican Steve Schuh or Democrat George F. Johnson IV, supports the raises for the county executive.

Benoit's proposal for County Council raises follows a report from an independent commission last year that recommended raising the salaries, adding a $350 monthly car allowance and allowing council members the same health benefits as part-time county employees. In 2010, council members repealed their car allowance and required any council members using county health insurance to pay the full cost.

Other counties in the region have considered the issue of raises recently.

Harford County Council members are considering raising the salary of future council members and the next county executive by nearly 25 percent. The county executive's salary would go from $105,000 to $130,000, while council members' salaries would rise from $36,200 to $45,000.

In January, Baltimore County Council members approved a $25,000 raise for the next county executive and an $8,500 boost for the next council. The raises take effect in December and bring the executive's salary to $175,000. Council members will earn $62,500 annually.

The Howard County Council and county executives also will receive raises Dec. 1, with the executive's salary rising from $171,301 to $178,000, and council members' salaries increasing from $56,077 to $59,950.

As the Anne Arundel County Council returns from its summer recess, it will also have other issues to tackle in the four meetings left in the term.

The council will review a new five-year lease for the former Naval Academy dairy farm in Gambrills. The Navy leases the land to the county, which in turn leases it to a farm family.

County Executive Laura Neuman has proposed a new lease for the tenants, Edwin and Marian Fry, who drew criticism from neighbors when they abandoned organic farming this year. The new lease requires them to transition back to organic farming.

Meanwhile, Grasso said he plans to introduce a bill banning cameras that generate tickets for motorists who run red lights. Anne Arundel has four red-light cameras, according to the county police: northbound Riva Road at Aris T. Allen Boulevard in Annapolis, southbound Ritchie Highway at Route 10 in Pasadena, southbound Ritchie Highway at Arnold Road in Arnold and Ritchie Highway at College Parkway in Arnold.

And Fink said he's proposing a bill that would make it more difficult for commercial property owners on the county's peninsulas to build residential projects. Under Fink's bill, such proposals would have to go through the county's special exception process, which includes public hearings and approval by a hearing officer.

Fink said his legislation isn't inspired by any specific proposal; he said he's concerned about traffic issues in the Mountain Road and Fort Smallwood Road corridors in his district that could worsen with additional development.

The council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Arundel Center, 44 Calvert St. in Annapolis.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Bryna Zumer contributed to this article.

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