Members of the Montgomery County Council will be getting a 6.5 percent pay increase in 2014.
Wages are a hot topic this week before the Montgomery County Council. Later this week, the first public hearing on raising the minimum wage in the county will be held, but on Tuesday, council members raised their own wages.
The pay hike for the council doesn't go into effect until next December, after next year's council election. State law prevents any elected officials from raising or lowering their salary for the term they're in office. So whoever serves on the next council will see an immediate payhike of close to $7,000, making the annual salary of a councilmember just over $114,000 a year.
Similar increases will follow in the following three years, meaning that by the year 2017, the annual salary will be over $136,000 per person.
Council Vice President Craig Rice agrees with the committee that prepared the salary scale that higher pay will attract better candidates for the council.
"When we start to reduce or minimize the public perception of what it is we do and the responsibility that we have, it becomes very dangerous about the people who are going to be serving [Montgomery County's] one million people," Rice says.
Jeffrey Slavin served on the committee that prepared the salary scale for the council, though their proposal was scaled back.
"Because of the changes in the requirements of the job, I know for a fact a lot of experienced individuals would not sacrifice their lifestyle and run for the council at the current salary," Slavin says.
The proposal received some stunning support from the Montgomery County Taxpayers League, a frequent and swift critic of most county spending and tax hikes.
"Though many may be of the opinion that neither you nor the county executive should get a pay raise based on performance, this pay raise is not about performance," says Joan Fidler, President of the League. "That is decided by the voters of the county. This pay raise is based on the responsibility of your positions and our expectations that you can meet them."
Councilman Phil Andrews was the lone dissenting vote on the council, saying the size of the pay hikes will set a bad precedent.
"An increase will make it more difficult for the county executive to negotiate reasonable and sustainable labor contracts," Andrews says.
The bill the council passed also raises the pay for the county executive, the sheriff, and the state's attorney.