Salaries paid to the next group of Harford County Council members elected in two years will increase substantially under pay raise legislation approved Tuesday night by the current council.
The legislation was approved 6-1, with Councilman Mike Perrone casting the only vote against it.
Although Perrone had some sharp comments about the planned raises, as he has had since the legislation was introduced in September, none of the six council members who voted for the raises said a word before, during or after the vote.
The base pay for future council members and the council president will increase to $43,500 and $47,000, respectively, effective July 1, 2019, the start of the next fiscal year following the election of a new council in November 2018.
Harford's council seats are not term limited, so in theory all of the current members could run in two years and, upon re-election, reap the benefit's of their action Tuesday night.
The six district council members are paid $36,750 annually and the council president $40,310. The salaries have a base of $31,000 and $34,000 annually, set in 2004, and have increased since through annual cost of living adjustments tied to increases in the Consumer Price Index. In 2010, legislation was passed in which the council agreed to forgo cost of living increases in years when county employees did not receive commensurate adjustments to their pay.
Based on what council members make, the next council's pay will increase 18.4 percent for a district council member and 16.6 percent for the council president. There was a minuscule cost of living increase at the start of the fiscal year in July.
By law, any increase in the pay for council members or the county executive cannot take effect until after a county election is held. Such legislation also requires five of seven votes to pass.
Judging from the rapid pace at which Tuesday's vote took place following the comments by Perrone, Councilman James McMahan, the legislation's sponsor, had his votes well in hand. His motion was seconded by Councilman Joe Woods, who like McMahan is serving a third term on the council.
The other votes quickly fell in line – Council President Richard Slutzky, a four-term member; Councilman Chad Shrodes, a three-term member, and Councilmen Patrick Vincenti and Curtis Beulah, who like Perrone were elected to their first terms in 2014.
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McMahan had previously questioned warnings he received from several citizens who spoke against the raises at a public hearing last month that there will be future political repercussions. All seven council members are Republicans in a county that votes for Republican candidates almost by rote in elections at every level. He said the volume of correspondence and calls to the council office regarding the raise legislation was surprisingly light.
McMahan also said he felt once people understood the amount of time council members put in for what has historically been viewed as a part-time position, even if that is not stated by law, they would understand the salaries needed adjustment. He also said there was a misconception among the general public that the raises would take effect during this council's term.
Perrone's comments were used to rebut a number of points that were made by McMahan during a public hearing on the legislation last month, where all but two of the 11 people who testified said the salaries should not be increased.
He pointed out that 25 people ran for the seven council seats in 2014, and all of them thought "36 thousand and change was adequate."
He likewise ridiculed the notion that salaries have to be raised to keep up with other counties, saying, "None of us is going to up and move to Baltimore County to run for county council..."
Perrone took aim at another claim made by McMahan that salaries needed to be increased, or service on the council would attract only retirees or young people just trying to get a start in life. The "vast majority" of those who ran in 2014 were middle aged, he said.
"I just can't see dipping into the pockets of the taxpayers to pay the next council more, when there are plenty of people willing to serve for less," he concluded.