Most Harford County government employees received raises in the new fiscal year that began July 1, but the biggest raise of all, almost 25 percent, went to the man in charge.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman's salary rose from $105,136 to $130,983, an increase of $25,847 that worked out to $3,692.43 for each of the seven months Glassman had been in office. He was elected in November and took office Dec. 1.
The raise – actually two – is "set in statute," Cindy Mumby, the county executive's spokesperson, said.
Glassman, a Republican, had nothing directly to do with approving the raise, Mumby pointed out, saying the statutes in question were enacted before Glassman was elected.
Ryan Burbey, president of the local teachers union, the Harford County Education Association, said two pieces of legislation considered by the Harford County Council last year to increase the salaries of the county executive and council members who would be taking office on Dec. 1, 2014, were a case of "terrible timing," as they came to the council just months after the council and then-county executive David Craig had shot down increased funding for the school system, which would have been earmarked for raises negotiated by the teachers.
Burbey, who noted "salaries overall have been an issue in Harford County for some time," testified against the pay raise bills during the council hearings last year, but he said last week the $130,983 salary that Glassman's final salary number doesn't appear to be out of line for his position.
"It's a hard job; I don't know where you set the mark," Burbey said. "He still makes less than the [school] superintendent."
Barbara Canavan, superintendent of Harford County Public Schools, is paid nearly $80,000 more annually at $210,388.
Burbey said the bigger issue is not what the people at the top, like Glassman and Canavan make, but rather the salaries of the people directly below them and in mid-level management jobs that in most cases are well into six figures. Those positions, he said, have proliferated and have a "cumulative effect" on the cost of operating their organizations and, in the case of the schools, the money available for teacher salaries.
Most of the raise Glassman received was set in motion by the man Glassman hired as his top aide, Director of Administration Billy Boniface, who was formerly County Council president.
Last summer, under Boniface as president, the previous council, approved legislation to raise the county executive's base salary from $90,000, where it had stood since 2004, to $130,000, effective July 1. 2015.
The legislation also kept intact an existing provision that adjusts the salary each year by the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), but only in years when employees of the county classified service receive similar raises.
This year, with few exceptions, county government employees received $1,000 raises, courtesy of Glassman's first budget. Employees of the Harford County Sheriff's Office received raises of a similar amount, as did those with the Harford County Public Library, agencies that depend mainly on county funding.
Those raises triggered the CPI bump for Glassman's pay, so instead of getting $130,000 starting on July 1, his salary for the new fiscal year was $983 higher than the base because of a 0.756 increase in the CPI, Mumby explained in late June.
When he unveiled the raises for the employees in April, Glassman noted a $1,000 raise would be the equivalent of 1 percent for someone earning $100,000 annually or 2 percent for someone making $50,000.
Glassman's raise is 24.5 percent over his initial salary.
Furor initially over raise
Even with the increase, however, Glassman makes less — much less in some cases — than the chief executives of Maryland's other large jurisdictions.
According to an analysis performed by the county auditor last summer when the executive raise legislation was being debated, base FY 2016 salaries for elected county executives are $175,000 in Baltimore; $184,250 in Howard; $190,000 in Montgomery; $187,773 in Prince George's; and $147,500 in Anne Arundel counties.
The Baltimore City mayor's salary is $166,551. All but Anne Arundel's executive will be eligible for some sort of CPI or cost-of-living adjustment, as specified by statute. In Charles and Carroll — two counties that are smaller than Harford and run by administrators appointed by county commissioners— the administrators will earn $173,401 and $144,207, respectively, in FY 2016.
None of Glassman's department directors or deputy directors was eligible to receive a raise in the FY 2016 because, as Glassman explained in April, most haven't been working in the jobs long enough to justify receiving one, as the majority of them started working seven months ago.
Included in that group is Boniface, whose salary is $129,000. He was appointe to begin working for Glassman in December after serving eight years as president of County Council. Council members are elected.
On Aug. 12, 2014, while still serving as council president, Boniface and then-Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti introduced bills to raise the salaries of the next county executive and members of the next County Council.
Both said raises were needed for those offices and that they were the ideal people to sponsor the legislation, since neither was running for re-election. (Harford County's charter mandates that raises in the executive's and council's pay cannot take effect until after an election is held.)
At the time, Lisanti was running for the House of Delegates and she was later elected. Boniface announced in October 2013 that he wouldn't seek re-election to the council.
Glassman, a Republican wrapping up 16 years in the Maryland General Assembly representing Northern Harford County, was running for county executive and considered the overwhelming favorite to win.
During the campaign, Glassman declined to take a position on the raises legislation, saying it was a county government matter. At that time, Boniface declined to say if he would have a role in Glassman's administration, should Glassman be elected. He only said he was working to get his friend elected.
Boniface and Lisanti explained that the raise bills wouldn't take effect until July 1, 2015 rather than when the next executive and council took office in December. That was done to give the new executive and council an opportunity to review the county's financial position and postpone implementation, if they felt it warranted.
When the legislation went before the council, however, there was considerable public furor about it, mainly because most county employees hadn't received much in the way of raises during the previous nine budgets under then-county executive Craig.
Several of the council members running for re-election expressed reluctance to vote on the council raises legislation, which prompted Boniface to withdraw it, saying he did not have the votes to get it passed. The legislation would have increased the next council president's pay from $39,718 to $48,000 and the six district council members' salaries from $36,210 to $45,000.
But Boniface persisted with the executive's raise bill. It passed and then withstood a veto by Craig, who has since moved on to the cabinet of Gov. Larry Hogan as state planning secretary. Glassman named Boniface his director of administration a couple of weeks before taking office Dec. 1.
The current County Council members didn't get the raises that were proposed for them in the 2014 legislation which was withdrawn last year. But under existing county law they were still eligible for the same annual CPI adjustment as the county executive.
As a result, on July 1, Council President Richard Slutzky's salary increased by $300 to $40,018 and the six district council members received increases of $274 to $36,484, according to figures provided by Council Administrator Mylia Dixon.