Compensation is already fair
Will the Cecil County Council show themselves the money?
That’s the question on the minds of residents this week as the council holds a public hearing on whether or not to increase compensation for both council members and the county executive.
In June, a compensation review committee, appointed by the current county council earlier this year to review compensation and make recommendations, as required by the Cecil County Charter, recommended increases of $ 2,000 to all.
When charter government began nearly four years ago, the county executive’s annual salary was set at $ 98,000 a year, while council members’ salaries were set at $ 25,000. Proposed increases would bring those salaries to $ 100,000 and $ 27,000 respectively.
The proposed salaries are the second lowest compared to what other charter counties pay their top elected officials, according to a report by the Maryland Association of Counties.
Wicomico County, which has a similar population to Cecil County, pays its executive $ 85,000 a year, while nearby Harford County, which has about two- and- a- half times the population of Cecil, pays its executive about $ 105,000 annually. Meanwhile, Wicomico pays its council members $ 16,000 annually, while Harford pays its about $ 36,000, with both offering about $ 2,000 and $ 3,000 extra to council presidents respectively.
Kennard Wiggins, chairman of the compensation review committee, told the council that his committee looked at salaries in the context of attracting qualified candidates, the local economy, household income and increases to the cost of living.
“Our goal was to provide a fair compensation without incentivizing a career track,” he added.
The committee compared Cecil County’s size, budget and number of employees with other counties, while also considering the scope of duties of the positions.
We applaud the council’s decision to try to put off the appearance of impropriety by scheduling the recommended increases outside the terms of the current elected officials.
The higher executive salary would start in December since Tari Moore chose not to seek reelection this year, while the council’s higher compensation would not start until December 2018 to ensure all members have to win re- election before receiving the higher pay.
We also believe the council made the right choice by not forwarding additional costs onto taxpayers related to elected ser vice.
While the committee also recommended an additional $ 5,000 a year for the county council president and allowance for all council members to seek reimbursement for attendance at other meetings in addition to the Maryland Association of Counties, neither of those recommendations were written for consideration in bills sponsored by Council President Hodge.
The council presidency is not an elected position, but one that is selected by the council members, and therefore could lead to more questions than needed.
When it comes to the base question of whether to increase the council and executive’s salaries we simply believe that doing so is not needed at this time.
The executive position already earns far more than a similar- sized jurisdiction while nearly matching one more than twice Cecil’s size. Council members earn more than their similar- sized colleagues and less than nearby larger ones. Therefore we feel that they fall in line with where Cecil County needs to be.
We thank the committee for its work, but if the belief is that increases are needed to attract qualified candidates, then recent elections would seem to prove that’s not the case. Republicans have almost always offered numerous candidates for local offices and while Democrats have failed to put forward candidates recently, party leaders have never suggested that the positions’ compensations played a part in that trouble.
We believe our officials are already compensated fairly and hope that you voice your opinion at 7 p. m. Tuesday at the County Administration Building on 200 Chesapeake Blvd. in Elkton.