Pay raises are in order for some St. Mary’s County elected officials, a compensation review committee advises.
The largest pay raise is suggested for the sheriff. Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) gets an annual salary of $82,000. The recommendation calls for the sheriff’s pay to increase to $100,000 a year with a 2 percent increase each year after that.
“The committee members believe that a higher salary is warranted due to the increased demands and scope of the responsibility of the sheriff. The safety of the citizens and the community is of the highest priority and the salary of our sheriff should reflect that level of responsibility,” the committee wrote.
“Additionally, the county needs to make sure a competitive salary and benefits package is offered so we can attract and retain quality individuals for this position,” the group wrote.
Cameron, elected as sheriff in 2006, said, “I knew what I was getting into” when he took a pay cut after he won the election. He was the director of the county’s public safety department before that.
Any raises for St. Mary’s officials would need the approval of the Maryland General Assembly, and would not become effective until after the 2014 election. Cameron noted that the committee’s salary recommendation is for the job itself and not for him per se.
He noted that the salaries of department heads in county government are all higher than his. “If the sheriff was a department, it would be the lowest paid,” Cameron said. For example, the new director of the county’s department of economic and community development will make $110,000 a year.
Cameron said he has not made up his mind about his political plans in 2014. “If the public doesn’t want me back, if the department doesn’t want me, I won’t run again,” he said.
The committee recommended a series of 1 percent yearly pay raises for the St. Mary’s County commissioners.
The president of the St. Mary’s County commissioners gets $43,000 a year and is responsible for setting the board’s agenda. The other county commissioners each get $38,000 a year. The group recommends a raise for the president after the 2014 election to $43,430 and 1 percent more each year afterward, and a raise up to $38,380 a year for the other commissioners with a 1 percent yearly raise thereafter.
By law, the county commissioners are supposed to meet 48 times a calendar year, said George Sparling, county attorney.
The board typically meets once a week, but holds several budget work sessions in the winter and spring.
If the commissioners only met those 48 times a year, they would be paid $791 a meeting and $895 a meeting for the president at today’s salary.
“I know how it sounds like a part-time job,” said Commission President Jack Russell (D). But the job doesn’t go away when the commissioners go out in the community. “I tell people it’s the finest 70-hour-a-week, part-time job I could find,” he said.
Besides the formal meetings there are plenty of evening and weekend social engagements that the commissioners are invited to and attend.
“You can help people out, just give little nudges to help in the community,” Russell said.
Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) will be unaffected by any raise for the commissioners as he is on his third consecutive term, which precludes another term in the 2014 election. Jarboe said he will seek election to the Maryland Senate.
Making $38,000 a year as commissioner “I think it’s more than adequate,” Jarboe said. He still works at his Charlotte Hall lumber yard as well, though fewer hours now.
“Everybody should be a part-time commissioner. We should not be micromanaging,” he said.
The salary of the county treasurer should be increased from $48,000 a year to $50,000 in 2015, with 1 percent increases after that, the salary review committee recommended.
“I wish they would make the pay more tempting for people,” said Treasurer Jannette Norris (D), who was first elected in 1992 and works at the job full time. She said her last raise was eight years ago. She said of the salary, “I think it’s very sad, but I knew that coming in. Money isn’t everything.”
She said she is considering running for another term in 2014.
The compensation review committee suggested keeping the salaries static for the state’s attorney and school board members.
St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard Fritz (R) makes $114,526 a year, according to the county human resources department.
The chairperson of the school board gets $7,000 a year, while the other board members get $6,000 a year at base levels, but receive more the longer they serve. “The committee does not recommend any changes to the board of education’s salaries or benefits. Board of education members receive an annual increase of $250 each year they serve,” the group wrote.
The board of education is required to meet at least once a month, but meets twice a month except in July and December, school officials said.
Cathy Allen has been on the school board since 2000. She said the school board’s work is similar “work-wise” to that of the commissioners “but not compensation-wise,” she said.
Allen and two other school board members are running for re-election this year. “You don’t do this for the money,” she said of the responsibility. “I think that’s the wrong reason to be here.”
The compensation group recommends increasing the salary of the orphans court judges to $9,000 a year, up from $7,500 a year.
Southern Maryland legislators appointed Judith Hewitt Sterling and Bryan Barthelme to the compensation review committee. The county commissioners appointed Mary Anne Murray, Michael O’Brien and John McAllister. The Democratic Central Committee appointed Melissa Higgs, and the Republican Central Committee appointed Joseph DiMarco.