Many elected officials in Howard County are set to accept pay raises this year, after rejecting or donating their automatic increases over several years in which other county employees saw their pay reduced by furloughs.
County Executive Ken Ulman plans to keep his $3,600 raise, a spokesman said. County Council Chairman Calvin Ball said he planned to keep his $1,200 increase and figured that other lawmakers would do the same.
"I think in previous years we have donated our pay back to stand in solidarity as we have had to make some tough decisions," Ball said. But this year, he said "likely we will not be donating our pay back."
Ulman will make nearly $164,000 next year, and council members would get $54,600 — the chairman makes $1,000 more. The raises are based on the Consumer Price Index.
The pay raises were predetermined in 2009 by a citizen commission that is convened every four years, but the council and county executive have so far declined their raises and returned the money to the county or charity, as individuals are allowed to do.
Kevin Enright, a spokesman for Ulman, said by email that because there are no furloughs this year and employee raises have resumed, the county executive now feels comfortable accepting a higher salary.
Councilwoman Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat, agreed.
"I think it's reasonable to take the increase," she said, since the council has not taken one since 2008.
Others on the council were noncommittal.
Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, a west Columbia Democrat, said Wednesday she had not decided whether to accept her raise.
In the past, she said, the council unanimously decided not to take raises because of the economy. "We wanted to end up not taking something if the employees of the county didn't get something," she said.
Greg Fox, the council's only Republican, also said he hadn't decided what to do.
An independent commission made up of Howard residents is appointed once each term under a county charter requirement to study pay for elected officials.
While the council can't increase the recommended amounts, it can either adopt or lower recommendations.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced this week that she would give away her annual pay raise of about $4,000, She makes $155,493 a year. Her 2.5 percent salary increase would go to the city's YouthWorks program, and she plans to include herself in the city's employee furlough plan.
Baltimore officials have identified a $52 million budget shortfall next year. City workers have also faced furloughs and pay freezes for the past three years.
Three council members in Prince George's County plan to return their 3.4 percent raises, as does the county executive, whose pay will increase to $180,473, according to The Washington Post. Meanwhile, all nine members of the Montgomery County Council are expected to return an increase in pay that would have raised their salaries to nearly $100,000 a year, the Post says.
At a recent council hearing, Howard budget director Ray Wacks warned council members to remain cautious as planning for next year's budget begins. Still, officials in Howard do not anticipate furloughs and have begun hiring essential positions.
"Usually it has been doom and gloom," Wacks said at the meeting, but "clearly we've been through the worst of the recession."