A top official in Baltimore County government is slated to get a $15,000 raise in the coming year, an increase that's drawing mixed reaction from County Council members as other county workers get more modest cost-of-living adjustments.
Fred Homan, county administrative officer, would see a salary increase of nearly 7 percent — from $225,000 per year to $240,000 — under the budget proposed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. That compares to 2 percent increases general county employees, including other department directors, are slated to receive.
As administrative officer, Homan is responsible for running day-to-day operations of county government. County department heads and the police and fire chiefs report to him. Homan reports to the county executive.
Two members of the seven-member County Council say Homan's raise gives them pause.
"I just think everyone should receive the same amount of salary increase," said Councilman Wade Kach, a Cockeysville Republican. "I don't think it's right for one particular person to get a 7 percent increase."
Kach said county employees' 2 percent cost-of-living increase likely will get eaten up quickly by rising health care costs.
Councilman Todd Crandell said he, too, was concerned that one employee is proposed for such a raise when county workers are getting 2 percent and county retirees are getting no increases in the Kamenetz proposal.
"In a tight budget, I am concerned that, as far as I know, only one member of the administration has been singled out for such a large raise," said Crandell, a Dundalk Republican.
Both Kamenetz and Homan declined interview requests, but county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler issued a statement noting that Homan wasn't eligible for cost-of-living raises other county employees received over the past three years. "In addition, three department heads who report to him make more," Kobler said.
Kamenetz, a Democrat who is weighing a run for governor, praised Homan during his budget address last month. The county executive called Homan "the glue that holds all of our fortunes together," a line that drew applause from those gathered in the council chambers.
Homan has worked for Baltimore County for more than 38 years. He was named county administrative officer by former county executive Jim Smith in 2006, and before that had served as the county's budget chief since 1989.
Some members of the council see no problem with the proposed raise, viewing it as an adjustment to Homan's salary after not receiving a cost-of-living adjustment the past few years.
"This is kind of catch-up," said Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat. She said the Kamenetz administration explained its rationale for the raise to council members on Monday after members asked questions.
Council Chairman Tom Quirk said Kamenetz has the prerogative to set the salaries for his top staff.
"I respect the county executive's decision to pay his key people what he thinks they're worth," said Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat. Plus, he said Homan works tirelessly in a difficult job.
"Fred and I haven't always agreed, but it's a demanding job," Quirk said.
Councilman Julian Jones said he's stopped by county offices on weekends to pick up papers and found Homan working.
"I don't think there's an employee that works harder than Fred Homan," said Jones, a Woodstock Democrat. "I would match the hours he puts in against anyone."
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins also has no issue with the raise. "I believe the county executive pays his staff accordingly," the Middle River Democrat said.
Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, declined to comment.
The County Council is scheduled to vote on the budget May 25.
The council has limited ability to change Kamenetz's proposal. Kach and Crandell said they're researching whether members could eliminate the raise by reducing the budget for the county executive's office.
Even with the raise, Homan would not be the top-paid county employee. That distinction goes to Police Chief Terry Sheridan, who makes $254,214, according to information provided by the county to The Sun.
Others who currently earn more than Homan include Dr. Gregory Branch, director of the Department of Health and Human Services; Rob Stradling, director of the Department of Information Technology; and Arnold Jabon, director of the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections and deputy county administrator.
With the raise, Homan would still make less than Sheridan, Branch and Stradling.
The county executive's salary is $175,000 and council members make $62,500. The last time executive and council salaries were increased was 2014, and that was the first time in eight years.
Homan's salary is in line with administrative officers of other large jurisdictions in Maryland. His current salary of $225,000 is tied for the second-largest among county administrators and county managers, according to an annual survey published by the Maryland Association of Counties.
In 2017, Montgomery County, the state's largest jurisdiction, paid its chief administrative officer $303,091, according to the survey. Prince George's County, the second-largest jurisdiction, paid its chief administrative officer $225,000, the same as Homan's salary in Baltimore County.
Baltimore County is the state's third-largest jurisdiction.