It was appalling to hear elected official salaries, and the mere suggestion it should be higher, even discussed this week, particularly at a time when governments are slashing spending across the board, leaving vacant positions unfilled, increasing parking fees, cutting services and sending people to the unemployment line.
At City Hall this week, however, that’s exactly what happened. Ocean City Councilman Jim Hall wants to see an informal ballot question placed before voters during the municipal election to gauge public sentiment on increasing the salaries of Ocean City Mayor and Council members. He’s concerned the current compensation is not enough to attract future candidates to run for office.
There’s no need to do a straw poll on a ballot to tell us what people will think – they will reject it outright and in landslide fashion. It’s shocking to hear an official even wants this question posed before voters, many of whom are fighting to stay in their homes and provide for their kids.
Sure, as it was intimated this week, an argument could be made the City Council members should be paid the same as the County Commissioners. It could be said they work more than the commissioners do, particularly considering they meet weekly year-round compared to the commissioners’ bi-weekly public meeting schedule. However, the issue here is the commissioners are overpaid, while council members’ salaries are about where they should be.
Currently, the County Commissioners receive an annual salary of $25,000, plus $3,000 for mileage and incidental expenses. Ocean City’s mayor earns $30,000, while the City Council president gets $11,000 and council members get $10,000. Additionally, county and city elected officials get tremendous health insurance and pay little for it.
This potential move of increasing all seven council members to the county’s level, for example, would mean $54,000 more in city spending per year ($71,000 for current council member salaries to $125,000 to match commissioner pay, excluding any change to the mayor’s salary).
That should not happen, particularly in light of all the so-called “right-sizing” the city has been doing to its budget over the last two years. One particularly controversial decision was when the city authorized a reduction in the number of city take-home vehicles last fall. That was a contentious situation and lots of employees took umbrage at the decision. That move saved $90,000. If the council increased its salaries to county levels, more than half of those savings would be gone, and many more feelings would be hurt and the current level of distaste at recent decisions would skyrocket.
It’s worth pointing out a majority of the council does not seem to want a salary raise. Most do not even want to see if placed on the ballot because they know how divisive of an issue it will be. It’s hoped that these reasonable minds prevail during any future discussions of this matter.