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Washington County, Maryland state officials discuss salary increases

November 19, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY

State and local elected officials had differing views on the process of raising salaries Wednesday.

The Washington County Commissioners would prefer not to have a role in giving pay raises to local elected officials, particularly themselves.

However, some state legislators representing Washington County said they would prefer to grant more authority to county commissioners to decide appropriate salaries for local elected officials.

A committee charged with analyzing the need for pay raises for eight elected positions in Washington County has suggested increases for commissioners, the school board and the sheriff.

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The commissioners are not bound by the suggestions, but if they agree, they can ask for a state law to change the salaries.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, suggested salaries coming from the county's budget be decided by the commissioners, not the state.

"How would you feel if we just said, 'This is your baby,'" Edwards asked. "It's your budget. It's not ours."

Every four years, the county is required under state law to create a salary study commission to review the salaries of eight elected positions, including the commissioners

Any changes approved now would not go into effect until 2010.

Barr said a woman recently told him that she would vote him out of office the next time the sheriff received a raise. The committee has proposed raising the sheriff's salary from $80,000 to $96,000.

Barr said some subordinates of Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore are paid more than he is.

In its priorities for the upcoming Maryland General Assembly legislative session, the commissioners noted that the current economic downturn makes discussions about pay increases for elected officials particularly difficult.

Barr said that all five commissioners have heard from constituents who are angry about the proposals.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said no elected officials are asking for pay raises, only following state law.

However, it seems one elected body that did ask for a pay raise was the Board of License Commissioners for Washington County, known as the liquor board. Members of the salary commission said the three-person board advocated very strongly that they receive large pay increases.

Members currently make $9,600.

Peggy Bushey, a member of the committee, said that the local liquor board is paid more than even larger counties, but made a push for higher salaries because of the amount of work they do.

Marilee Kerns, a member of the committee, said the liquor board's job description would need to be rewritten to encompass more responsibility in order to justify a pay raise.

Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said it would be inappropriate to give pay increases to any elected officials based on information provided in the committee's report.

He said other factors, including whether the positions are full-time jobs or include health benefits, also should be considered.

The county commissioners and the Board of Education are part-time employees. However, many say the job requires more than just part-time hours.

Barr said the electrical company he owns has lost money due to the amount of time he spends away from work doing county business.

"Frankly, I'm running around full-time as a county commissioner," Barr said. "And that's my choosing."

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