Last Tuesday, Sept. 6, the Baltimore County Council approved to increase salaries for council members and the county executive in a 5-2 vote.
The salary increases will go up 10 percent, as the council also approved to raise the cap to 70 percent on retirement benefits for council members.
For the first time since 2014, Baltimore County Council members’ pay will increase from $62,500 to $69,000 after inauguration this December. The county council chair will also see a pay increase to $77,000 while pay for the county executive will boost from $175,000 to $192,000.
In an additional 6-1 vote on the bill, the salary for the county’s head administrator will also be increased by 10 percent with Councilman Todd Crandell being the singular seat who voted against it.
Pay for the county administrative officer that is currently held by Stacy Jones will go from $241,000 to $263,000 in July of next year.
“We are not voting for increase in salary or pension benefits for us,” Jones said. “It’s for the next council.”
All six members of the current county council stressed to communicate how this vote is for future council members and potential candidates who will occupy offices like the county executive. Under Maryland state law, it gives power only to the County Council to approve pay raises for themselves and the county executive.
“I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves for whoever wants to get involved to come up with a better way to do this,” Jones said. “There is no in the world that can increase our salary but us.”
According to the council chair, members’ pay have been “below par” in comparison to what other government employees receive.
The vote on the bill showed a rare instance of bipartisanship for council members both for and against the legislation.
Republican Councilman Todd Crandell and Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Bevins were the only two members to vote against both pay raises and pension benefits for the county council.
Democratic councilmen Julian Jones, Izzy Patoka and Tom Quirk voted for the legislation and its amendments with Republican councilmen David Marks and Wade Kach.
“This is an issue that has to have a holistic approach to it and you have to go back to the drawing board,” Bevins said. “Is the county council a full-time job, is the county council a part-time job?”
When the bill was originally introduced by Council Chair Julian Jones, it would have fully removed the cap that would allow council members to receive benefits equal to their salaries. Last Tuesday, Jones compromised by changing to maximize the pension cap to 70 percent.
According to the bill, council members can receive retirement allowances up to 70 percent after 16 years of service.
Councilwoman Bevins, who will retire after her remapped district’s election, raised concern as to why the pension cap has become an issue “all of the sudden.”
“Twelve years have went by and nobody’s ever said a word about [pensions],” Bevins said. “All of the sudden there’s such a concern the pension and getting it back.”
Back in 2009, the county council capped pensions at 60 percent after the public expressed discontent that former Councilman Vince Gardina could retire at age 54 with a pension equal to his full salary.
The County Council is officially classified a part-time job, with some members arguing they work full-time hours.
Some members have expressed there is a disconnection between the job description and the time spent doing the job.
“There’s a fundamental flaw in the job description and the salary and benefits package that is offered for that particular job,” Crandell said.