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Commissioners against raising their positions' pay

December 18, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Washington County commissioner salaries should stay where they are, but the sheriff should get a raise, the commissioners decided Tuesday as part of a pay-review process.

The commissioners were responding to a report presented by an appointed group that meets, by law, every four years to study the salaries of several county positions.

The study group recommended that the salary of the commissioners rise from $30,000 a year to $35,000. The president of the commissioners would receive $40,000 a year instead of the current $33,000.

The commissioners’ salaries last increased in 2002.

The group also recommended boosting the sheriff’s pay from $88,000 to $100,000.

The recommendations were sent to the commissioners for their input.

The commissioners, in turn, must make a suggestion to the Washington County legislative delegation in Annapolis, which isn’t bound by any of the recommendations.

A change in salary for the commissioners or the sheriff can only be done through a bill in Annapolis.

However, delegation members said earlier this month that they’d rather see county officials decide county salaries.

There was a split among the commissioners Tuesday on whether a raise for their positions is justified.

Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline said he supports the raise for the sheriff, but he felt “awkward” backing a raise for his own position — even though the increase wouldn’t take effect until after the current commissioners’ terms end.

Commissioner William B. McKinley said he’s satisfied with his pay in the position, but out of “respect” for the workload of the office, he thinks a $5,000 raise is appropriate.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham lobbied for a more creative approach — linking raises for the commissioners to, for example, raises for other county employees or to the Consumer Price Index.

Terry L. Baker, president of the commissioners, said people know the salaries before they run for office and there are many good candidates. In an uncertain economy, he said, the commissioners and the sheriff shouldn’t get the suggested raises.

The four other commissioners voted in favor of recommending the pay increase for the sheriff and Baker voted no.

The commissioners formed different alliances for a series of votes on the commissioner salaries.

A proposal to accept the salary study group’s recommended raises for the commissioners failed 3-2. Callaham, Baker and Cline formed the majority bloc.

Callaham offered a compromise — raising the pay to $32,000 a year for commissioners and $35,000 for the president of the commissioners.

That, too, failed 3-2, with Cline, Baker and Commissioner John F. Barr opposed.

Reminded that they must provide a recommendation of some sort to the delegation, the commissioners voted 3-2 to leave the commissioners’ salaries as they are. Cline, Baker and Barr again joined to form the majority.

Callaham said her objection to that recommendation was based on not having a chance to change the process for considering raises.

The study group also considered the pay for the county’s treasurer, school board, judge of the orphans’ court and liquor board. All of those salaries now are set by the county, through a local law.

The commissioners agreed in concept with the salary study group’s recommendations for increases for judge of orphans’ court (from $7,000 to $7,800) and liquor board (from $9,600 to $10,600 for two members; from $9,850 to $10,850 for the chairman).

The study group did not recommend a raise for the treasurer, who will remain on the county’s step and grade system (at $68,333 currently).

The group recommended pay raises for school board members from $6,100 to $7,000 (and for the president, from $6,200 to $7,200).

At the request of Callaham, a former school board member, the commissioners will wait for feedback from current school board members before making a recommendation.

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