Wicomico unceremoniously kills raises proposal

The Wicomico County Council, at the work session this week, flatly denied pay raises for the County Executive and other officials recommended by the Wicomico County Compensation Committee.

Councilmen John Hall and Matt Holloway both supported the idea, but Holloway said it was apparent no other council members agreed.

“OK. We are turning those down,” Council President John Cannon said, continuing with the meeting.

In their report, Compensation Committee members recommended boosting the County Executive’s annual pay from $85,000 to $130,000, effective next year. If the current $85,000 had been adjusted for inflation, it would be $113,442 annually, Commission members said.

Currently, the County Executive has the lowest salary in Maryland, with the next lowest being a difference of more than $17,000 and the highest having a margin of over 244 percent. Throughout the state, the average annual salary is more than $133,000. With Cost of Living Index numbers taken into consideration, it should be at least $127,807, according to the commission, chaired by Dr. Memo Diriker.

“At this amount the Wicomico compensation level would be the second lowest in the state, but the gap will be narrower, and the amount will be better aligned with the complexity of the tasks at hand and the skill sets required by the job description for this position,” Commission members wrote in a report to the County Council.

Also recommended were increases, all effective next year, for the sheriff, from $93,000 to $105,000 annually; for County Council President, from $18,000 to $20,000; for County Council Vice President, from $17,000 to $18,000; and for Council members, from $16,000 to $17,000.

Commission members said the sheriff’s salary is $4,000 below the amount recommended by the Commission in 2013. If the previously recommended amount were adjusted for inflation, the current amount would have to be $104,101.

If the Council President’s salary were adjusted for inflation the current amount would be just under $20,000. The differential among other similar part-time positions in Maryland was negligible, so the Commission didn’t recommend a market adjustment beyond inflation for this position, Council Vice President or Council members.

Commission members met in the summer and fall of 2017 to discuss increases and declared the County Executive “woefully under-compensated.”

Salary for that elected position was set in 2006 and does not take into consideration the position being analogous to a CEO of an organization with an annual budget of more than $140 million and 1,000 employees.

“It was set at a time when the position was first created. Since that original salary was set, it has not been adjusted at all. It is the lowest paid County Executive position in the State of Maryland, by a long shot,” Commission members wrote in their report.

“We are not suggesting that the County Executive needs to be the highest-paid employee in the county. However, we are saying that the current salary for the position that has such enormous responsibility is inadequate. We believe that raising the salary of the County Executive will result in some of our county’s most talented men and women giving strong consideration to seeking the job. We believe there is a correlation between a strong salary and strong candidates. Therefore, we believe that by raising the salary, we help ensure that people of serious abilities and skill sets will consider running for the office which, in turn, serves the best interests of Wicomico County,” commission members wrote.

They also asked for the next commission to be formed in 2019 so member can propose compensation that will take effect in 2022.

“We believe that moving the work of the commission further away from the election cycle is an idea worth considering. Members of the commission understand that the perception that the Council is voting for pay increases for themselves can be problematic. We believe, therefore, that appointing the commission in the years that immediately follow election years — 2019, 2023, 2027, etc. — will help remove that perception problem,” they wrote.

Commission members are Ernie Colburn, Mike Dunn, David Ennis, William R. McCain, Kathleen McLain, Martin T. Neat, Pete Richardson, Mark Rudnick, Charles R. Smith and Winnie Wooley.

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