County Council delays cutting perks: Politicians may cut their salaries first
The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Any cuts to County Council perks have been tabled for now.
The council last night unanimously voted to wait until after the county budget is struck before deciding whether to eliminate members' fringe benefits.
Three separate bills proposed cutting their $350-a-month car allowance, health care benefits for them and their families, as well as access to the county's pension system.
"I don't think working this job, you should have a retirement benefit," said Councilman Charles W. Ferrar, an Edgewater Democrat who co-sponsored the measures and then suggested delaying them. "This is not your primary occupation."
Ferrar asked his six colleagues to take up these austerity measures after they've balanced the $1.18 billion county budget that delivers a 5 percent pay cut to county workers, not including the council. Ferrar, who was hesitant to discuss the delay, later explained that the council may be instituting other pay cuts to themselves and it would be better to address their perks later.
Council Chairman Ed Middlebrooks, R-Severn, also said other cuts for the council may be on the horizon.
"This council has in the past and probably will in the future share in any pay reductions," Middlebrooks said, explaining that eliminating the other fringe benefits should be taken in context of the entire budget.
"Those bills will rise or fall based on what we do then," he said.
No members of the public testified on whether council members should eliminate their perks.
When the council previously discussed whether to cut the car allowance, Councilwoman Tricia Johnson, R-Davidsonville, suggested a temporary suspension of the benefit instead of a permanent one.
A vote on the three bills is scheduled for June 7, a week after the council's deadline to pass a budget.
Also last night, a group of west county residents and Board of Education member Eugene Peterson presented a petition with more than 150 signatures asking the council to change zoning laws.
The change would usher in both about 1,000 new homes and a new school promised by the developer. Councilman Jamie Benoit, D-Crownsville, represents the area and said he will be at a May 27 community meeting to discuss the plan in more detail.
The county school system has endorsed a proposal by The Polm Cos. to build a "contract school" that would be run by Imagine Schools, a national charter school chain.
The other elementary schools in the Laurel and Russett areas are overcrowded, and county growth rules forbid new homes until there is space in schools to accommodate the additional students expected to arrive with a new subdivision. The deal to build a new school would circumvent those rules and needs approval from county officials to move forward.
In other action, the council last night also heard public testimony on the tax rate, which will increase by a fraction of a penny to 88 cents per $100 of assessed value for county residents.
Annapolis residents would also pay a fraction of an increase, with their tax rate increasing to 53.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Together, the changes would generate about $8.5 million more in property tax next year, the maximum allowed