Commissioners' frugality praised


Carroll County Commissioners, all Republicans elected last year promising to tighten the budget, are running their own offices so frugally that the leader of a citizens watchdog group says even he can't complain.

The commissioners earn $32,500 per year, collect per diem pay and are reimbursed for their drive to and from the office. And they work hard enough to earn that money, said William Drumm, president of the Carroll County Taxpayers' Association.

"I really even think their salaries are too low," he said last week. "I'm not opposed to paying them mileage from their home."

Mr. Drumm keeps an eye on county spending, however, and said he will be part of a citizens committee that will review the county budget in the fall to determine where cuts could be made.

A review of the commissioners' expenses for their first seven months in office, December through June, shows their spending is in line with previous boards'.

In addition to their salary, the commissioners are paid $12 for each day they work on county business in or out of the office and 25 cents per mile for business trips.

Records show the county has paid for two overnight trips outside Carroll since December.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates received more in expense reimbursement than the two other commissioners in the first seven months. He collected $3,312 in mileage and per diem expenses, compared with $2,345 for Commissioner Donald I. Dell and $1,933 for Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, according to figures supplied by County Clerk Shawn D. Reese.

Mr. Yates earned more in expense money than the other two commissioners because he lives farther from the County Office Building in Westminster. He collected $1,488 in mileage reimbursement, which includes reimbursement for county business trips.

The round trip from his home in Eldersburg to the office is 36 miles. He is eligible to collect mileage reimbursement for 31 miles, because commissioners may collect the total round-trip mileage less five miles, Ms. Reese said.

Commissioners are eligible to collect round-trip mileage from their home to the office if they live farther than five miles from the office building, according to local law adopted by the Maryland General Assembly.

They are eligible to collect per diem pay regardless of how many hours they spend in the office. They are paid for attending outside meetings where they represent the county, includings committees and receptions.

The per diem rate has been $12 for about eight years, Budget Director Steven D. Powell said.

The commissioners generally work three days per week, a practice begun by the previous board. The law requires they work two days.

Mr. Yates worked 152 days in the first seven months in office and earned $1,488 in per diem pay.

Mr. Dell put in 154 days and earned $1,848 in per diem pay and $497 in mileage reimbursement. Mr. Dell lives about 10 miles round-trip from the County Office Building, Ms. Reese said.

Mr. Brown worked 142 days and earned $1,704 in per diem pay and $229 in mileage. He lived in Westminster until recently and so was not eligible for mileage reimbursement for trips to the office.

He moved earlier this month and now lives about nine miles round-trip from the office. He said last week he has not decided whether to submit expense forms to be paid for the four miles for which he would be eligible.

The two county-paid overnight trips were:

* A Maryland Association of Counties conference in Hunt Valley Jan. 4 to 6 attended by Mr. Yates, Mr. Dell and former Commissioner Julia W. Gouge at a cost of $801.

The county paid Mrs. Gouge's expenses because the meeting was her last as MACO president. She did not run for re-election as a county commissioner in 1994.

The registration fee was $215 per person. The commissioners rented one room to use as a gathering place for a cost of $156.

* A National Association of Counties conference in Atlanta July 20 to 24 attended by Mr. Dell at an estimated total cost of $1,067.

Mr. Dell is a member of the NACO Agriculture and Rural Affairs Steering Committee.

Mr. Brown said the commissioners' budget is pared almost as much as it can be. The budget for the office for the current fiscal year is $366,855, which is $6,780 more than last year.

The budget includes salaries, office supplies and money for after-prom parties and Carroll Community College scholarships.

Mr. Brown said he would consider cutting 3 percent of the commissioners' budget next year, which would mean dropping the county's membership in NACO. It is not essential to county business, he said.

Overall, the county's $156.6 million operating budget is 7.3 percent higher this year than last.

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