Salaries in county governments, public school systems and local sheriff’s offices steadily increase year to year thanks to various contracts and officials’ desires to offer competitive pay.
Southern Maryland News submitted public information requests to nine county agencies for lists of everyone who makes $100,000 or more in Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties. All told, there were 1,390 publicly paid employees who topped that salary amount — 603 in Charles, 502 in Calvert and 285 in St. Mary’s.
School systems had the most people (750) on the list, although sheriff’s offices (375 total), particularly in Charles County, have plenty of law enforcement personnel topping $100,000 annually. County government (including state’s attorney’s offices) employees (265 total in the three counties topping $100,000) tally some of the highest individual salaries, following school superintendents, who rank the highest in each jurisdiction.
A matter of safety
With nearly 169,000 residents, Charles County’s sheriff’s office is tops in the region with law enforcement workforce numbers.
According to information provided to Southern Maryland News by Capt. David Kelly, Charles County has 314 sworn police officers, 117 correctional officers and 165 civilian employees. Of those, 212 make over $100,000 annually.
Kelly pointed out there are currently vacancies within the agency. With the population and the number of police officers factored, that means roughly one officer per every 540 residents.
Kelly indicated Charles’ sheriff’s office’s new hires “start off at the bottom.”
For Charles, the starting annual salary for an officer is $62,287. Rookie correctional officers start at $47,918 annually.
As for Charles’ sheriff’s office’s large civilian roster, “It varies depending on the position grade,” Kelly said.
At the top of Charles’ payroll is Sheriff Troy Berry (D), who last year was elected to serve his third four-year at the command. Kelly stated Berry’s annual salary is tied to the Maryland State Police pay scale and is equivalent to a lieutenant colonel in the MSP. After then-Gov. Larry Hogan (R) gave an across-the-board pay increase to cops, Berry’s salary now tops $202,000 annually.
According to information provided by county officials in Calvert and St. Mary’s, both sheriff’s — Republicans Ricky Cox in Calvert and Steve Hall in St. Mary’s — have annual salaries of $170,202. Cox and Hall are both in their first years as sheriff.
“The total number of employees at this agency is 321, of which 149 are sworn, 74 are corrections and 98 are civilian professional staff,” stated Karen Moore, of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office’s professional responsibilities office. “The starting salaries vary by position type.”
A total of 85 Calvert sheriff’s office employees make at least $100,000. In St. Mary’s, which has a higher population than Calvert, the number of sheriff’s office employees topping $100,000 a year is 78.
In St. Mary’s, a rookie deputy earns an annual salary of $55,640 while correctional officers start at just over $49,000. In Calvert the starting annual salary for a sheriff’s deputy is $57,928. Information on the starting annual pay for correctional officers in Calvert was not available.
Among the three sheriff’s offices, there are slight variations in the number of sworn personnel under one supervisor.
According to Amanda Halwick, Calvert County Sheriff’s Office administrative aide, the number of personnel under a supervisor varies from 10 to 16.
Moore provided a breakdown of the number of personnel under a supervisor by position within the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Office, which includes “10 employees in command staff, 47 in special operations division, 29 in the administrative division, 37 in the criminal investigations division/narcotics, 93 in the patrol division, 14 in correctional support services, 64 in corrections operations and 27 in the corrections administrative division.”
There is parity among the region’s three sheriff’s office in the number of “lateral hires,” that is, experienced officers who are hired from other law enforcement agencies. However, information from Charles shows the agency is trending upward in that category.
In 2021 Charles hired two “comparative compliance officers” from other states or Washington, D.C., and one officer from within the state.
Last year, one out-of-state officer was hired while four officers from within Maryland joined Charles’ sheriff’s office.
Another category where there appears to be parity is the average age of retirement. The average law enforcement officer in Southern Maryland retires in their early-50s.
It costs to learn
In Southern Maryland’s three public school systems, about 750 staff members across the region make about $100,000 or more.
Calvert County, by far the smallest system, has the most with about 300 school system employees with a salary at or above the $100,000 mark, followed by Charles with 294 and St. Mary’s County with 156.
Those 300 members in Calvert County represent about 15% of the county school system’s 2,063 member workforce, according to a representative from Calvert County Public Schools.
Conversely, Charles County’s number represents only 8% of its system. Charles has the largest workforce with over 3,500 staff members.
St. Mary’s rounds out the field with only 7% of its 2,334 staff members making over $100,000.
In Calvert County, most (66%) of those employees making over $100,000 are in the classroom while 34% are in administrative positions.
Charles County’s splits are the inverse of Calvert’s, with only 22% representing classroom positions and 77% represent administrators.
St. Mary’s public school officials did not respond to multiple requests for additional information.
Unsurprisingly, superintendents lead the way in all three counties.
St. Mary’s public schools’ Superintendent James Scott Smith makes the most in the region with a yearly salary of $266,275, followed by Charles public schools’ Superintendent Maria Navarro ($220,000) and Calvert public schools’ Superintendent Andraé Townsel ($215,000).
Smith has worked in the St. Mary’s school system for three decades and led the system for the last nine years (he was just recently approved for another four-year contract). That tenure dwarfs the amount of time served by Navarro, now in her second year, and Townsel, who took office in Calvert last July.
Compensation for superintendents is determined by negotiations between each superintendent and the boards of education. Maryland law stipulates that the salary cannot be reduced during negotiations.
While Charles County’s place on the list was surprising considering the school system’s size, the list also included about 12 staff members whose base salaries fell below $100,000.
According to David Shimizu, compensation manager for the school system, those staff members were added to the list due to extra compensation for extra work that would push their salaries over the $100,000 plateau.
“Some of those other amounts can include national board certifications or teaching extra classes that could be equal to one-seventh of their pay,” Shimizu said.
While the majority on the list of those making over $100,000 for all three counties consists of administrators, more classroom teachers could be added to the list in coming years.
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future features mandates that the base level salary for teachers must be $60,000 by July 2026. That will likely push other salaries up, too. In addition, mandatory salary increases above negotiated minimums are required each year until July 2024.
And even biggest bonuses could come for teachers that complete certain accomplishments. Those accomplishments include $10,000 for being a National Board Certified Teacher and an extra $7,000 if that teacher also teaches at a low-performance school. Shimizu said these increases could add to the amount of teachers making over $100,000.
Those pay bumps are likely to increase the percentage of school system budgets that are given over to teacher salaries, which can be 75% or higher currently.
According to Charles County Public Schools, about 78%, or $285 million, of the proposed $481 million fiscal 2024 budget is apportioned for salaries and wages.
Calvert County is expected to use 60% ($165 million) of its proposed $271 fiscal 2024 budget for wages and salaries, with St. Mary’s using 57%, or 189 of its proposed $346 million budget on salary and wages.
For complete lists of county government, sheriff’s office and public school employees making $100,000 or more a year in Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties, go to www.somdnews.com.
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