A Howard County councilman says he will give up a $9,500 pay raise for a year to contribute money to charity and return some funds to the county's ailing coffers.
Councilman Paul Farragut, D-4th, said yesterday that he has asked county officials to begin paying him at the rate he earned before the annual salary for council members rose from $18,000 to $27,500 last December.
Farragut said that although he has received the higher salary since last December, he is donating the raise portion of his pay from July 1 to Sept. 30 to the United Way of Maryland. And he is asking county finance officials to begin paying him at his previous rate Oct. 1.
He gives two reasons for his sacrifice: He wants to encourage other county residents to give to the United Way, and he wants to share the burden of the county's budget crunch, which has prompted officials to lay off 40 employees and force its remaining 1,700 workers to go without raises.
"I was thinking that I was going to be asking employees to make sacrifices in this recession, telling them they ought to be contributing more," said Farragut, who helped launch a United Way fund-raising drive Monday. "I thought there was something inconsistent in the logic when I wasn't making a sacrifice."
He said he didn't know exactly how much of the raise would go to the United Way and to the county, but based on the amount of the raise he receives over three months, that would mean $2,375, excluding taxes, would be contributed to the charitable organization. He said he wanted to continue receiving the lower pay until the current fiscal year ends next June 30.
Raymond Servary, the county's finance director, said Farragut has asked him to reduce his pay, and he is seeking an opinion from the county's Law Department to determine whether that could be done. He said the councilman may have to accept the higher salary and, if he wants, make a personal gift to the $H county, another unusual move.
"I'm not aware that anybody has done that," Servary said.
Council members last year voted to give themselves and the county executive a pay raise. The executive's salary rose from $60,000 to $80,000.
Some county workers have complained that elected officials were receiving higher salaries while forcing them to forgo raises.
"My contribution won't have an impact on the overall county budget, but I think it's symbolic of the fact that we're going to have to tighten our belts," Farragut said.
Besides his council pay, Farragut earns about $47,000 a year in his job as sales manager for cargo and project development at the Maryland Port Administration. He said he wasn't asking his council colleagues or County Executive Charles Ecker to make a similar sacrifice.
Ecker said he would not follow suit. "That's his personal decision," the executive said.
Two other council members said they needed the higher salaries, saying elected officials usually go four or five years before getting raises.
"I can't live in Howard County for any less than I'm making now," said Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, who gave up a $64,000-a-year job with the public school system when he became a councilman and said he now earns about $20,000 annually working as a financial consultant.
"That was a very gentlemanly thing to do and I'm glad he could afford to do it," said Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th. "I frankly could not afford to do it."