A citizens' commission created to review the compensation levels of the county executive and council is close to making its final recommendations.
After more than four months of meetings, in which commission members parsed budget information, examined salaries from neighboring counties and interviewed current council members about their time commitments, the group voted on some hard-and-fast numbers Dec. 9.
The compensation commission will recommend council salaries start at $59,950 in 2015, with a minimum 2.5 percent wage increase every year. If the Consumer Price Index wage increase is higher, they will receive that instead.
Current council member salaries started at $53,400 in 2010, and raised each year based on the CPI.
The commission also will recommend a $3,500 bonus for the council chair and a $3,500-per-election-cycle stipend that each council member can use towards purchasing new technology for the job. Currently, the council chair, a position that typically rotates between council members on an annual basis, makes an extra $1,000. There hasn't been a stipend for technology purchases in the past, although council members receive $150 a month toward phone bills.
The County Executive, who started at $160,198 in 2010 and has received CPI-based increases on an annual basis since, will make $178,000 in 2015, if the commission's recommendations are approved. Like the council, the executive will receive a 2.5 percent or CPI-based wage increase annually, whichever is higher.
County Executive Ken Ulman's last wage increases as county executive went into effect on Dec. 2, according to a county spokesperson. His current salary is $171,301. The 1.8 percent increase over last year's salary was based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers.
Commission members hope to have a final draft of their recommendations by the end of the week. The deadline for recommendations is Dec. 21.
The County Council can accept the salary recommendations as they are or vote to lower them, but they cannot raise the recommended amounts. The council must vote on the new salaries before the next election on Nov. 4, 2014.
Bates, Miller file legislation
District 9A Dels. Gail Bates and Warren Miller, both Republicans from western Howard County, announced Dec. 9 that they had pre-filed legislation to repeal a state-mandated stormwater fee.
Bates and Miller said in a statement that the county should use current property tax revenue for stormwater management, rather than creating a new utility.
"After more than 70 tax and fee increases in seven years, there seems to be no end to the special purpose taxes for Maryland citizens," Bates said in the statement.
"Taxing constituents twice to cover stormwater management is just plain wrong. … We believe the citizens of Howard County — as well as the rest of the state — should not be subject to this ill-advised tax scheme," Miller added.
District 9 state Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Republican from West Friendship who is running for county executive, pre-filed similar legislation in the state Senate in October.
County home and business owners received the first annual stormwater charge as part of their second semi-annual property tax bills, sent out Dec. 2.