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Havre de Grace proposes to more than double mayor's salary; council would get big raises, too

Havre de Grace Mayor Bill Martin will have his salary more than doubled on July 1, if the city's voters approve raises he and the City Council are seeking.
Havre de Grace Mayor Bill Martin will have his salary more than doubled on July 1, if the city's voters approve raises he and the City Council are seeking. (Bobby Parker for The Aegis 2017)

The Havre de Grace Mayor and City Council are asking voters in the city’s upcoming May election to approve raises that will more than double the mayor’s salary.

A council member’s salary also would have been doubled before Council President David Glenn amended the increase during Monday night’s City Council meeting.

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Five council members — Council member Michael Hitchings was absent — voted unanimously to put the salary question on the ballot May 8.

If approved, the mayor’s salary would increase, effective July 1, to $18,200 from $7,800 and the council members’ salaries would increase to $7,800 from $5,200.

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The ballot question had proposed a council salary of $10,400, but before the council voted Monday Glenn proposed the reduction.

“We’ve always felt if you elect us, you should also say how much we make. We firmly believe that,” Glenn told the audience at the council meeting and anyone watching at home. “This mayor and City Council, and the one before us, we’ve had no raise or cost of living adjustment since 2000.”

Council members responsibilities are not in the category of mayor, Glenn said, and proposed an amendment that would reduce proposed raise, but that still amounts to a $50 a week increase, “which I really honestly believe my counterparts deserve, but again, I’m that type of guy I don’t tell you what I should make. It needs to be in the hands of the voters.”

Council members David Martin and Monica Worrell opposed Glenn’s amendment.

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“I believe the number derived is an appropriate number,” Worrell said.

She pointed out that several analyses were done over the last year, including by the Maryland Municipal League, to study how raises are handled elsewhere in the state, the impact on the budget and what was done over the last 20 years.

“Change like this is never easy, and the devil is in the details,” she said.

Council members Jason Robertson, Casi Tomarchio and Glenn supported the amendment to reduce council members’ raises.

The council voted unanimously to put the proposed raises on the ballot to let the voters decide if raises are warranted, the result of a charter change the council made in January 2017.

“You guys hold the real power,” Glenn said.

Havre de Grace is the only one of 157 municipalities in Maryland where the voters decide on raises, he said.

The mayor’s raise is deserved, Glenn said, which is why, even though he said he would never vote for his own raise, he would be voting for the ballot question to award the raises.

“He has all the responsibility on him,” he said. “He makes all the major decisions across the board, unlike other municipalities where it’s a ceremonial position.”

Joe Kochenderfer, a former city councilman who lives on Tydings Road, said he was “somewhat disappointed” with “such dramatic increases” and that they would go into effect July 1.

Many folks would agree with raises, but the rates at which they are proposed “strikes me as excessive,” Kochenderfer said before the council members’ salaries was amended to a lower figure.

“Most elected officials will tell you they are in or seeking public office because they feel it’s a good thing for the community and that they’re willing to serve,” he said. “Most will also say an increase in salary might not make them work harder for their constituents because they already give it their best shot.”

The raises should not go into effect until the mayor and each council member has stood for election, he said.

After the council acted on the resolution to put the salary question on the ballot, Mayor William T. Martin pointed out the sitting council as well as others before it tried to propose raises within the budget, but each time they failed by a 3-3 vote.

“You know who voted against it on the council? It was always the three council members up for election that year,” Martin said. “The only way to do it correctly is to let the people decide.”

That prompted the charter change.

“So now the people decide who gets elected, they decide how long you serve… and now, citizens also say how much you make,” Martin said.

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