County Employee Pay Raises – Bob Culver


Written by Bob Culver, At-Large Wicomico County Councilman

The March 2014 article in the Business Journal written by Mr. Ernie Colburn included correct information on proposed raises for Wicomico County Council members, the County Executive and the County Sheriff, but omitted information which greatly influenced the decision of the Wicomico County Council to deny the proposed raises. The article minimized the impact these raises would have on our county taxpayers and ignored the reasons given by the Council on their denial.

The County Coucil has faced the past four years dealing with decreased revenues and a shrinking tax base. As with the entire Country, our County has seen business failures, foreclosures, plus residents and businesses moving to more tax friendly counties or states. At the same time, State and Federal revenues have been cut. Therefore, the County has had to no choice but to prioritize spending in an attempt to provide essential services, resulting in funding cuts for many services through our County. Our need for services has not decreased, leaving the County Council constantly having to decide what to fund and what to cut.

The Council made their decision on raises due to several issues. First of all, in the same week that the County Council was to decide on the raises, they were presented with figures showing the County had overestimated tax revenues by over $3.4 million. With those figures in mind, giving huge raises to elected officials while trying to minimize the impact on services to residents seemed less than prudent.

The County Executive currently makes $85,000 annually plus health insurance, retirement, a car, fuel, phone and an expense account related to his job. The Compensation Committee proposed a 16% raise.  The County sheriff makes $85,000 per year with the same basic perks as the County Executive. The Commission proposed a 12% raise. County Council members have salaries of $16,000 a year with no retirement or vehicle. The County Council did not argue the merits of these raises, just the wisdom of giving raises when our financial outlook was so unsettled, and many of our neighbors having trouble making ends meet.

While the Council salaries have not increased in 20 years and often involve 30+ hours a week for “part-time” positions. The Council took the high road, also refusing to give themselves a raise.

Basic question: In an economy where we lack funds to provide essential services, are raises merited for elected officials? The argument given is that a higher salary would attract better candidates. It was also said, “You get what you pay for.” I always thought elected officials ran because they cared about the community and tried to make a difference for the good of all people and not just themselves. I feel very fortunate to be serving on the council and representing the citizens of Wicomico County here and at the Maryland Association of Counties in Annapolis.