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Harford County Council expected to consider pay raises for next council members

The Harford County Council is getting ready to consider another pay raise for future council members, two years after a similar proposal was withdrawn amid controversy.

The agenda for Tuesday night's council meeting includes a bill up for introduction that addresses the compensation for future council members.

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The council typically does not provide the text of bills before they are introduced, but several members have confirmed the legislation will propose higher salaries for council members elected in November 2018.

All seven council members are Republicans.

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As prescribed by the county charter, any increases in base compensation of elected officials – the seven council members and county executive – cannot take effect until after elections have been held for those offices.

The council president's annual salary is $40,310, while the six district council members are paid $36,750 each, Harford County government spokesperson Ben Lloyd said.

As of July 1, all members received a salary increase of 0.73 percent, as the county code stipulates they can receive pay increases based on the Consumer Price Index. That amounted to an additional $292 annually for the council president and $266 for council members, he said.

The base salaries of the council president and district council members, set in 2004, are $34,000 and $31,000, respectively; however, provisions were made in the law to permit annual cost of living raises. In 2010, legislation was passed to stipulate cost of living raises for council members and the county executive are only granted in fiscal years when the county workforce receives salary increases through the annual budget process, Lloyd said.

Councilman Mike Perrone, who represents the Joppa and Edgewood areas, said he, for one, would definitely be opposed to any council raises.

He said that it is one of the few bills he would be opposed to even before it was introduced.

"I don't think that any sort of raise for the next county council is appropriate. I think if elected officials are going to receive raises, we should be next in line behind all the county employees," Perrone said Monday, noting that the county code prevents the council approving raises for itself, only for future councils.

Perrone also noted he testified against the last raise proposal introduced in August 2014, when then-council president Billy Boniface and then Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti argued pay increases of up to 25 percent were needed. Their legislation would have pushed the base salaries for council president and council member to $45,000 and $48,000, respectively.

That legislation was later withdrawn, Boniface admitting at the time that he did not have the votes needed to pass it after the legislation was greeted with some public outcry during a period when most of the council members were either running for re-election or for some other office. Then-county executive David Craig also had threatened to veto the legislation.

Councilman Jim McMahan, who represents greater Bel Air and Forest Hill areas and is midway through his third term on the council, said he will be sponsoring the new raise legislation and expects some segment of the public still won't like it.

He declined to say how much of an increase will be proposed, but noted that since the 2014 legislation, county employees have received raises of 1 percent last fiscal year and 3 percent at the start of this fiscal year. One of the objections to the prior legislation was it came during a period when county government employees had gone several years without pay increases.

Perrone was a candidate for council in 2014, eventually knocking off three-term member Dion Guthrie in the general election. Two other first-time council members were elected in the 2014 general election: Patrick Vincenti, who represents Churchville and Aberdeen, and Curtis Beulah, who represents Havre de Grace and Riverside.

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Beulah replaced Lisanti, who won a seat in the House of Delegates that year, and Vincenti replaced Richard Slutzky, who was elected council president in place of Boniface, who did not run for re-election and has since become director of administration under Harford County Executive Barry Glassman.

Three other council members: McMahan; Joe Woods, who represents Fallston and Joppa; and Chad Shrodes, who represents northern Harford, were re-elected to their seats in 2014.

McMahan was only member of the last council who spoke out in support of the 2014 raise legislation. At the time he said increases were needed to attract "well qualified candidates" and likened such raises to "the public's investment in their next council." He also took issue with the suggestion framers of the county charter expected council members to be part-time legislators, saying he could find no such wording in the document.

Conversely, Slutzky was the only member to publicly oppose the legislation.

The last council did, however, increase the base salary of the county executive from $90,000 to $130,000. Craig, who wasn't eligible for another term as county executive and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014, vetoed the play increase for his successor, but the council overrode the veto 6-1, with Slutzky casting the lone negative vote. The increase took effect on July 1, 2015.

As a result, Glassman took office on Dec. 1, 2014 with a salary $105,136 and received almost a 25 percent raise to $130,983 on July 1, 2015. With his allowed 0.73 raise this July 1, the county executive now makes $131,939.

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