Prince George’s County Council has rejected a bill to freeze pay for the county executive and council members until 2012. The rejection of the bill co-sponsored by Council President Thomas Dernoga, D.-Dist. 1, and Councilman Eric Olson, D.-Dist. 3, will increase the pay for the county’s executive and legislative officials, already the highest paid in the state.

Council members’ pay will now be $96,417and the county executive’s pay will be $174,540. Montgomery County is the only county with a similar population that’s in the same neighborhood with $167,000 for its county executive and $94,040 for county council members.

In comparison, Baltimore City Council members earn $58,425 and the mayor earns $151,700. In Baltimore County, the county executive earns $150,000 and the council members earn $54,000.

The pay would go into effect in 2011 after a one-year pay freeze has been lifted on the council and county executive. The compensation will be adjusted every year if the consumer price index for the Washington-Baltimore area increases. The chair and vice chair of the council, respectively, will make $5,000 and $2,500 more than the rest of the council.

Presumably in five years, every member of the council could be making over $100,000.

Olson said he doesn’t mind pay raises, but that it needed to be done in a more responsible way. He would like to have waited until the market turned around and not give raises in years where the consumer price index (CPI) was negative.

“What I was trying to do legislatively was put a freeze on council pay and executive pay and also to decrease council pay and executive pay if the consumer price index fell,” Olson said. “If I hadn’t put in legislation with the freeze in it then the pay increases would’ve automatically happened.”

The decision to eliminate the extra year of salary freeze and raise the pay for elected officials – even at a rate of just 2 percent – could become a public relations nightmare for a council that has instituted furlough days and cut county employment due to a budget crunch. Although this year’s budget wasn’t as bad as many feared, it still left a lot to be desired by the council’s admission.

“The one thing that was difficult to do was provide even more funding to the school system,” Dernoga told the AFRO recently. “We’re happy we provided an additional $6 million, but we probably needed another $15-20 million, but that’s something we couldn’t do.

“That’s just the downside of things where we wish we had that opportunity.”

Council members Marilynn Bland, D.-Dist. 9; Samuel Dean, D.-Dist. 6; Camille Exum, D.-Dist. 7; and Tony Knotts, D.-Dist. 8, all voted nay. Olson, Dernoga and Will Campos, D.-Dist. 2, voted in favor of the bill. Andrea Harrison, D.-Dist. 5, and Ingrid Turner, D.-Dist. 4 did not vote.

Campos, Turner, Olson and Harrison are the only council members who will be able to benefit from rejection of the bill.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO