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Baltimore's top elected officials set to receive automatic raise

Public OfficialsFinance

Baltimore's top politicians are set to receive automatic 2.5 percent pay raises, following a years-old decision by an independent body.

The salary hikes — which would increase the mayor's $159,380 salary to $163,365 — are tied to raises that city union workers receive each year, according to a 2010 decision by the Compensation Commission for Elected Officials.

The cost-of-living increases would take effect in January following a legal vetting by the Board of Estimates on Wednesday. The item was not discussed at the brief meeting, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, the members of the panel slated to receive the raises, each abstained.

All together, this year's raises for the mayor, comptroller and City Council members would cost nearly $31,000.

Rawlings-Blake has not decided what she'll do with the money. She said she's donated all or part of her raise in past years to charities, including the Maryland Food Bank and YouthWorks. The mayor said leaving the issue of pay raises in the hands of the commission is the right solution.

"I think it's worked," she said Wednesday. "For me, at a time when we were in the depths of the recession, cutting millions of dollars from the budget, even though the unions were getting raises, I have given my raise to the food bank.

"I've given to YouthWorks, so we can try to help young people find employment. More people are on the path to being able to provide for themselves and their family as adults, because that is important to me."

The Compensation Commission for Elected Officials, designed to add a buffer to the politically sensitive issue of raises for elected officials, was created in 2006 by a citywide referendum.

The commission approved the 2.5 percent increases for each year from 2010 to 2014 as long as at least one city union also receives a raise. The Board of Estimates must approve all major city expenditures, although the panel was asked only to "note" that the salary adjustments are in compliance with the law.

The Board of Estimates also on Wednesday authorized 2 percent pay raises for crossing guards and Health Department workers, including nurses, who are part of the city's temporary staff. Increases to the rates paid to city auditors and firefighters, in accordance with the most recent union contract, also are up for approval.

Salaries for Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt will grow to $108,173 from $105,535.

Council members are to receive $1,535 more a year, for a salary of $62,918. The council vice president, Edward Reisinger, would be paid $69,540, up from $67,844.

Young will donate his raise to a charity, his spokesman, Lester Davis, said Monday. The state constitution mandates that elected officials cannot "diminish" their salary, but they can donate it. Davis said Young would designate his charitable gifts rather than see a donation revert to the general fund.

"He'll use the increase to help others," Davis said.

The pending raises didn't draw immediate concern.

Councilman Carl Stokes said the cost-of-living adjustment is in line with increases received by city workers and individuals who receive Social Security benefits.

"I'm OK with it," said Stokes, who is chairman of the City Council's Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee.

"I didn't demand it. I didn't vote on it, but I think it's OK."

Several union officials, including Robert F. Cherry, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police, and Michael B. Campbell, president of the fire officers union, declined to comment.

The mayor's salary has grown significantly in recent years. The rate increased from $95,000 to $108,000 in 1999. Before 1995, the salary for the city's chief executive was $60,000.

In other business, the board approved a $7.2 million contract with Xerox Corp. to provide copier equipment, over the protest of Mike Brogno, a major account executive with Canon.

Brogno contended that the city did not answer questions from the office supply company, including the volume of the workload, that were necessary to submit a competitive contract bid.

Tim Krus, the city's purchasing agent, contended that the city's procurement process was followed and sufficient information was provided to interested companies.

He said there were "nine bidders on this solicitation and the only bidder who has chosen to protest this … is Canon.".

ywenger@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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