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Baltimore County leaders mull pay raises – for themselves

County Executive Johnny Olszewski shakes hands after presenting the Baltimore County budget.
Isaac Smay
County Executive Johnny Olszewski shakes hands after presenting the Baltimore County budget.

The Baltimore County Council is considering raising council members’ salaries as well as the pay of the county executive and the county administrative officer. During a hearing Tuesday night, Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Democrat, said council members in Baltimore City, and in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties make more than those in Baltimore County.

“All of these we are below,” Jones said. “Even with the increases the council has not received a raise since 2014.”

Under proposed legislation, council members would see their pay increase from $62,500 to $69,000. By comparison, Baltimore City council members earn $76,660 each year.

The Baltimore County council chairman’s salary would increase $70,000 to $77,000. Baltimore City’s council president Nick Mosby earns $131,798.

The county executive’s annual salary, which also was last increased in 2014, would go up from $175,000 to $192,000.

If approved, the pay raises would take effect in December, after the General Election in November. Five of the seven council members, as well as County Executive Johnny Olszewski, are running for reelection.

The council also is considering bumping up the county administrative officer’s pay at $263,000, from $240,000. That salary was last raised in 2017. If the council approves the increase in the coming weeks, it would take effect June 2023.

While discussing the proposed council raises, Democrat Izzy Patoka said the job has become more demanding, especially when it comes to constituent services. He said council members used to hear from their constituents through a phone call, a letter, or at a community meeting.

“Now portals for constituent services include a text, an email, a social media post, [and] twitter,” Patoka said. “Just trying to harness all of this, this one component, constituent services, is a full-time job in itself.”

Besides the proposed pay raise, the legislation also removes a cap on the retirement benefit they can receive. That cap currently is at 60% of what they were making when they retired as a pension.

Republican Councilman Wade Kach said he supports the pay raise but objects to lifting the cap.

“This legislation would basically say after 20 years that a council member can get 100% of his or her salary,” Kach said. “Regular county employees would have to work 70 years to get 100%.”

In a written statement to the council David Plymyer, who retired as the county attorney in Anne Arundel in 2014, asked the council to delay a vote on raising the county executive’s pay. Instead, the attorney recommended that Olszewski should propose to the council a pay and benefits plan for exempt services employees first. These are political appointments like members of Olszewski’s cabinet and department heads.

Plymyer pointed out that Olszewski is required to do this after a charter amendment was approved by the voters in 2018.

“The Olszewski administration clearly has not given a high priority to resolving a serious legal deficiency,” Plymyer wrote. “How can it be that a blatant violation of the County Charter is being treated so casually?”

There have been concerns in the past that political appointees have received lucrative benefits with no oversight from the county council.

Erica Palmisano, Olszewski’s press secretary, said in a statement that the compensation plan is on track to be completed by the end of September.

The proposed pay raises were recommended by the county’s Personnel and Salary Advisory Board. A majority of the five-member board is appointed by the county executive. According to the county’s website it has general oversight responsibility for the county’s personnel system.

The county council is expected to vote on the proposed pay increases at its next meeting Sept. 6.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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