Balto. Co. Council approves raises for council, executive

Baltimore County Council members approved Wednesday a $25,000 raise for the county executive, as well as an $8,500 boost for their own positions.

All seven members voted in favor of the increases. The raises will take effect in December and bring the executive's annual salary to $175,000. Council members will earn $62,500 annually, with the council chairperson — who currently gets $60,000 — making $70,000.

County Chairwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, said after the meeting that although the council job is considered part-time, it is a full-time job for her and several other members.

"The council hasn't had a raise for eight years," she said, adding that the council used to get raises every four years. "I think it's appropriate."

The raises will go into effect when the new term begins. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz filed papers earlier this month to run for re-election, and most council members are expected to run for re-election.

The amount of the raises were based on the recommendations of an advisory panel that reviews elected officials' salaries. The panel is made up of four people appointed by the county executive and one elected by certain county employees.

Council members voted without discussing the legislation publicly. They also did not discuss it when it was on the agenda at a work session last week.

Kamenetz proposed the legislation boosting the executive pay last month. The bill regarding council pay was sponsored by all council members.

The move has already drawn criticism from one candidate for County Council. Republican Todd Crandell, who is running to represent the district that includes Dundalk, issued a statement saying that, if he's elected, he would donate the raise to local youth organizations. He called the raises "insensitive," given the economic struggles many residents are facing.

"I don't think it's fair to the people of our district to accept a pay raise," he said.

No one testified at Wednesday's council meeting, but last month the proposals drew criticism from the heads of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees and AFSCME Local 921, the union that represents county employees such as snowplow drivers and custodial workers.

Also Wednesday, the council unanimously approved a new ban on synthetic marijuana, commonly called "K2" or "Spice."

While state and county laws already ban the substances based on specific chemical compounds, law enforcement officials say manufacturers have found ways around the rules by slightly altering their formulas. The new measure does not bar specific chemicals — instead, it prohibits the purchase, use and distribution of anything made with synthetic chemicals that mimic the intoxicating effects of THC in marijuana. Violators would face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $500.

The county Police Department and state's attorney's office have supported the legislation, which was sponsored by Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, as well as by Bevins and David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican.

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