Council members request they get raise of up to 50%


County Council members would get pay raises of nearly 46 percent to 50 percent over three years under a bill introduced Tuesday by three members.

The legislation, which was introduced Tuesday by Council President Jeffrey Wilson and members Susan Heselton, R-District A, and Theresa Pierno, D-District C, calls for the council president's pay to increase to $25,000 in December 1994, to $27,500 in 1995 and $30,000 in 1996. That represents a 50 percent increase over the current $20,000.

Council members, who make $18,500 a year, would receive an increase to $23,000 in 1994, $25,250 in 1995 and $27,000 in 1996.

By law, the increases cannot go into effect until after the next election of council members, which is in fall 1994.

"We have lagged far, far behind on this," Mr. Wilson said. "I just don't think we're at a realistic level of compensation."

He said that elected officials' compensation pales in comparison not only with that of other counties' legislators but also with comparable county government employees.

"If average people who are not wealthy are going to run for County Council, there has to be adequate compensation for the work they do," he said.

The bill also calls for the county executive's salary to increase from $65,000 to $67,500 in December 1994. It would grow by $2,500 a year in successive years, reaching a maximum of $75,000 in December 1997. That represents a 15 percent increase over four years.

The executive's salary was last changed in December 1990, when it increased almost 25 percent from $52,250 to $65,000.

"Compared to our colleagues in the greater Baltimore area, these are modest proposals," Mr. Wilson said.

Howard County's council president makes $28,500 a year and its council members receive $27,500. In Montgomery County, where compensation is based on the Consumer Price Index for the Washington, D.C., area, the president makes $58,544 and council members receive $53,221.

The most recent law affecting compensation increases in Harford was passed in 1988 and took effect in December 1990.

That raised council members' salaries from $14,500, where they had stood since December 1986, to $18,500. At that time, the president's salary increased from $15,500 to $20,000.

While County Council office has traditionally been a part-time job, members spend much more time on council matters than they are compensated for, says Mr. Wilson.

"I don't think anyone on the council does less than 20 hours a week. And some do closer to 30 to 40 hours," he said.

A spokesman for County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who had not seen the legislation before it was introduced, said she did not think this is an appropriate time to consider pay raises.

"We're in the middle of the budget process and the economy is so uncertain, it's just not the time to deal with that now," said county spokesman George Harrison of the proposed changes.

Mrs. Rehrmann's salary of $65,000 is the lowest of five county executives in the metropolitan area. The others range from $80,000 annually in Howard County to $96,536 in Montgomery County.

A public hearing on the bill has been scheduled for 7 p.m. June 15 in the council chambers.

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