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Harford council members back off on council pay raises

Laws and LegislationEconomic IndicatorDavid R. CraigConsumer ConfidenceHarford Community College

Harford County Council members, in the face of public criticism and the threat of a veto by County Executive David Craig, decided to back off on plans to raise salaries for future council members and will instead recommend that the county executive give other county employees a raise.

Council President Billy Boniface and Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti announced Thursday night they are pulling the controversial bill that would give their successors on the council a pay increase.

"I've counted my votes on the council and there's not enough votes to pass that bill," Boniface said Friday.

He and Lisanti planned instead to introduce a resolution at Tuesday night's council session recommending the county executive enter into an agreement with the Board of Education, Sheriff's Office, Harford County Public Library, Harford Community College and their respective bargaining units.

The council is not allowed to enter into any such agreements.

A second bill to give the county executive a raise is still on the table.

Boniface said he thinks there is "more of a comfort level" among the other council members "in increasing someone else's salary."

The pay raise bill would have raised council members' salaries from $31,000 to $45,000, while the base salary for the council president, who is elected separately, would have increased from $34,000 to $48,000. Council members are considered part-time employees.

With consumer price index increases, the salaries are actually now at $36,210 for council members and $39,718 for the council president, according to the county's human resources department.

The legislation that isn't being withdrawn would set the county executive's base annual salary at $130,000. The existing base salary, set in 2004, is $90,000; however, subsequent annual increases tied to the Consumer Price Index have moved the executive's current salary to $105,136.

That bill was still due to have a public hearing Tuesday night and could be voted upon by the council any time after the hearing has concluded, including during the legislative session that follows.

Both bills would have required at least five votes to pass, and County Executive David Craig has said he would veto both. Five council votes are also required to override an executive veto.

When council members were polled previously by The Aegis about the bill raising the next council's salary, three said they were in favor and one was opposed. Three said they were undecided.

Boniface and Lisanti, who aren't coming back to the next council, had backed the bill, as did Councilman Jim McMahan, who is running for re-election. Councilman Dick Slutzky, who is running for council president to succeed Boniface, issued a statement early on that he would vote against the bill.

Councilmen Dion Guthrie, Joe Woods and Chad Shrodes were undecided, with Shrodes saying he wasn't comfortable with raising the next council's salary when county employees and school employees haven't been getting raises.

Woods had said he wouldn't vote to raise the council members salaries just because they are lower than those in other counties, one of the arguments Boniface and Lisanti had used for proposing the raises. Guthrie had said he could see the merit of the raises but was not sure how he would vote, noting he had received many calls and emails for county employees complaining that they had received raises.

Guthrie, like McMahan and Slutzky, has an opponent in the November general election. Woods and Shrodes are unopposed.

Boniface said he feels the lack of support for the council member raises "is a mistake" because "it's not about the individuals, it's about the position," but he understands "it's election year."

"It is what it is, so I'm not going to beat a dead horse," Boniface said about the bill.

"I learned a long time ago in politics, sometimes you got to be satisfied with getting 50 percent of what you wanted," he added.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Laws and LegislationEconomic IndicatorDavid R. CraigConsumer ConfidenceHarford Community College
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