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Panel says boost some county pay

October 20, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A commission appointed by the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday recommended pay hikes for the sheriff and the Board of Education's elected members, which would go into effect with terms that begin after the November 2006 elections.

The 2004 Washington County Salary Study Commission recommended that the salary for the sheriff be increased from $67,500 to $90,000 a year, saying the raise is justified based on the sheriff's workload and to keep the pay equivalent with that in other jurisidictions.

The last time the sheriff's salary increased was in 2001, when it went from $55,000 a year to $67,500.

School Board members, who receive $4,800 annually, would receive a $1,500 pay increase. The board's president makes $4,900 a year. School board members haven't had a raise in seven years.

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The salary commission said School Board members should receive the raise, partly based on the performance of the school system and to cover costs associated with being on the board.

The salary commission presented its report to the County Commissioners at a meeting Tuesday.

The Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly has final say over whether the raises are approved, but state law also requires the County Commissioners to vote on the recommendations, Commissioner John C. Munson said after the meeting.

The county pays the salaries of the sheriff and School Board members, Munson said.

Munson said he hasn't made up his mind about the proposed increase for School Board members, but that he opposes raising the sheriff's salary to $90,000.

"I don't think it warrants an increase from $67,500 to $90,000," Munson said.

Other commissioners said they were hesitant to support the recommendation for the sheriff and that they wanted more time to think about it.

"At first glance, I probably can support most of the raises, but I do need additional time to think about the sheriff," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said after the meeting.

"It didn't seem in line with the other counties," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said after the meeting.

Salary commission chairwoman Leslie LeBlanc said during the meeting that the sheriff's salary was low compared with the Maryland State Police Hagerstown barracks commander's salary of $85,000 a year and the Hagerstown Police chief's salary of $80,000 a year.

She said the sheriff's salary could turn people away from running for the post. Sheriffs in other counties earn more a year than Washington County's sheriff but have less responsibilities, she said.

"I don't think we should worry too much about what our peers have," Munson told LeBlanc.

Salary commission member Philip Baker-Shenk, who served on the subcommittee that discussed the School Board's salary, said he opposed increasing the pay for board members.

He said he thought it would be more appropriate to allocate the money toward improving school facilities, to classrooms or to teachers.

He said he didn't see a correlation between the salary of School Board members and student achievement.

"We should spend every spare dollar we can find on schools, teachers and classrooms and not on overhead," he said after the meeting.

Christine Madeo, who served on the same subcommittee with Baker-Shenk, wrote in the salary report that she supported increasing the pay for School Board members by $3,000 a year.

"Let's reward performance and performance in a critical area, the primary advocates for our children's education," she wrote. "They have made a significant contribution to our children, community and quality of life."

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