Does the mayor of Baltimore deserve a raise?
How about the City Council president, comptroller and council members?
These are the questions that will be answered by the Elected Officials Compensation Commission recently appointed by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
"What we'll probably do is meet with some of the people in office and see how they view the situation and try to determine what the norm is and come up with some recommendations," says Andrew Graham, a private attorney and head of the three-member panel.
The mayor makes $60,000 a year; the council president and comptroller make $53,000; and the 18 council members, many of whom have other jobs, make $29,000. The salaries of the city's elected officials were last raised seven years ago.
Any pay raises for elected officials would be subject to the approval of the City Council and would not take effect until December 1995, when officials are sworn in after that year's November elections.
Given the sensitivity of the subject, particularly in a city perpetually strapped for cash, most officials are reluctant to say they should get more money -- at least publicly.
Asked whether he should have a raise, Mr. Schmoke, who has said he will run for a third term in 1995, laughed and said, "That's for the commission to determine."
He added, "I think it's certainly time to review the salary of the mayor and City Council. We have not increased our salaries since 1987.
"I don't think there's any good time for an elected official to raise his or her salary. But if you want to attract good people, you have to have reasonable pay," he said.
City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who is planning to challenge Mr. Schmoke for mayor in 1995, said the $7,000 difference between her salary and the mayor's salary is "the raise I'm looking for."
"My position is let the committee come back to recommend to us," Ms. Clarke said. "But let's make sure that whatever we do, we take care of our front-line workers. I think people feel the way I feel: Give it first of all to front-line workers -- teachers, police, sanitation workers -- then worry about your leaders."
Unions back raises
Union representatives of those workers -- who last year got their first pay raises in three years, a modest 2 percent increase -- say they are supportive of the notion of raises for elected officials.
"Let me say it this way: If you're going to attract people, you're going to have to have a living wage," said Irene Dandrige, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.
"I would have no problem with them getting a raise," agreed William V. Taylor, head of Firefighters Local 734. "I certainly believe some of the City Council do deserve a raise.
"And personally, I believe the mayor should be the highest-paid employee in the city."
At $60,000 a year, Mr. Schmoke is far from that. School Superintendent Walter G. Amprey makes $125,000, while Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier makes $106,000. A bill before the City Council would raise the salaries of City Solicitor Neal M. ,, Janey and Public Works Director George G. Balog from $75,000 to $100,000.
The compensation commission's Mr. Graham believes those figures should be "a consideration" in determining the mayor's salary. "I think you need to look for some sort of symmetry within the system itself," he said.
Mr. Schmoke's salary does not fare much better when compared with those of other mayors. In fact, of 10 cities with populations roughly comparable to Baltimore's 736,014 residents, Mr. Schmoke's salary ranks dead last, according to figures compiled by the National League of Cities.
The mayor of San Francisco, population 723,959, makes $130,083; the mayor of Indianapolis, population 741,952, makes $83,211.
The mayors of several cities with significantly smaller populations than Baltimore make considerably more money than Baltimore's, the league figures show. Among them are the mayor of Atlanta, population 394,017, at $100,000; the mayor of Minneapolis, population 368,383, at $71,000; and the mayor of Buffalo, N.Y., population 328,123, at $79,380.
Among cities with populations greater than Baltimore's, where the mayor is the chief executive officer as well the top elected official, only the mayor of Phoenix, population 983,403, is paid less than Mr. Schmoke, at $37,500 a year.
The mayors of Dallas and San Antonio also make less, but they have deputies called city managers who run those cities' daily operations.
But there is no corelation between the size of a city and its mayor's salary. The highest-paid mayor in the country is the mayor of Houston, population 1.6 million, who makes $130,875 a year. The mayors of New York City (population 7.3 million), Los Angeles (3.4 million) and Chicago (2.8 million) make $110,000, $117,876 and $80,000 respectively.
And the mayors of Philadelphia (1.58 million) and San Diego (1.1 million) are, at $70,000 and $65,000 respectively, only slightly better paid than the mayor of Baltimore.
In Baltimore County, the county executive's salary is $100,700 a year, though Roger B. Hayden accepts just $75,920. Mr. Hayden accepts less money to demonstrate his commitment to fiscal austerity.
"What's reasonable may not be my salary in comparison to the mayor of New York," said Mr. Schmoke. "But I do think we can determine reasonableness based on the history of the salary."
Top salaries increased
That history shows that the salary of the mayor -- and the council and comptroller -- increased every four years from 1971 to 1987. During that time, the salary of the mayor rose from $35,000 to $60,000, while the salaries for the comptroller and council president more than doubled from $22,500 to $53,000.
Salaries of the council members also increased more than 100 percent, from $12,000 to $29,000. During the same period, the Consumer Price Index grew by 176.4 percent, according to Commerce Department figures.
But in 1991, Baltimore, which was in a severe budget crunch, did not give raises to its elected officials. Between 1987, the last year such raises were given, and now, consumer prices have risen 27 percent.
Even some council members who are ambivalent about whether the council deserves a raise are convinced the mayor should get one.
"Certainly for the mayor," Councilman Martin O'Malley, a 3rd District Democrat and a practicing attorney, said of the question of pay increases. "Council people -- I'm not sure, to be quite honest with you."
"Particularly the way the mayor works, and based on his responsibility, he is entitled to more," agreed Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, a 4th District Democrat. As for the council, Ms. Dixon, who works for the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development, said, "I couldn't survive off of this council salary."
She added, "I would say no [to raises] for some of my colleagues. A lot of them would do even less."
Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, a 2nd District Democrat, said, "The mayor should make twice what he does" but added that any increase in council salaries should be "in line with what other city employees get."
Based on the figures from the National League of Cities, %J Baltimore's council salaries of $29,000 a year are more representative than the mayor's salary. In New York and Chicago council members make $45,000 and $27,600, respectively; in Houston, they earn $34,900, and in Philadelphia, $40,000.
In some cities with comparable populations, council members earn far less than they do in Baltimore.
In Indianapolis, they earn $9,985 a year, and in Memphis, Tenn., (pop. 610,337), they make just $6,000.
But in other cities, council members make much more. In Milwaukee, for example, which has 628,088 residents, council members earn $42,996; in Washington, D.C. (pop. 606,900), they make $69,500.
Baltimore's City Council has six more members than the District of Columbia's -- but only one more than Milwaukee's.
Atlanta, which has the same number of council members but only slightly more than half as many residents as Baltimore, pays its council people $18,400 a year.
Below are the annual salaries of the mayor, City Council president and council members of cities with populations roughly comparable to Baltimore's.
City .. .. .. .. .. Population .. .. Mayor .. .. Council .. .. Council
... .. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . .. .. .. .. .. president .. . members
San Jose, Calif. .. 782,248 .. ... $80,000 .. .. $52,800 .. . $52,800
Honolulu* ... .. .. 762,874 .. ... 100,000 .. ... 45,500 .. .. 38,500
Indianapolis, Ind.. 741,952 .. .. . 83,211 .. ... 11,864 .. ... 9,985
Baltimore ... .. .. 736,014 .. .. . 60,000 .. ... 53,000 .. .. 29,000
San Francisco .. .. 723,959 .. ... 130,083 .. ... 23,924 .. .. 23,924
Jacksonville, Fla.. 672,971 .. ... 100,745 .. ... 34,127 .. .. 25,595
Columbus, Ohio . .. 632,910 .. .. . 77,000 .. ... 30,000 .. .. 25,000
Milwaukee ... .. .. 628,088 .. .. . 97,661 .. ... 48,155 .. .. 42,996
Memphis, Tenn. . .. 610,337 .. ... 100,000 .. .. . 6,000 .. ... 6,000
Washington .. .. .. 606,900 .. .. . 88,065 .. ... 79,500 .. .. 69,500
*Includes city and county