County Delays Salary Increase Call

SALISBURY – County leaders this week agreed to postpone a discussion on compensations for the county executive and sheriff after a lengthy discussion on the level of pay expected for each position.

Last month, members of the Wicomico County Compensation and Allowance Commission came before the Wicomico County Council with recommended pay increases for the county executive, county council and the Wicomico County sheriff.

Beginning in 2022, the commission recommended an annual salary of $124,000 for the county executive position (currently $85,000), $25,000 for the Wicomico County Council president (currently $18,000), $23,000 for the Wicomico County Council vice president (currently $17,000) and $21,000 for council members (currently $16,000). The commission also recommended increasing the sheriff’s salary from $95,000 to $121,000.

Back on the agenda for discussion Tuesday, council members agreed to move forward with proposed salary increases at the council level, but to table discussions on proposed pay increases for the county executive and sheriff until the results of a salary study could be reviewed.

“I think it may give us a better perspective, once we’ve seen the salary study for all the positions in Wicomico County,” said Council President John Cannon. “Then we can make this determination.”

Much of Tuesday’s work session to discuss proposed pay increases centered around the county executive’s salary. While four of the council members said they supported the commission’s recommendation, Councilmen Joe Holloway and Larry Dodd and Councilwoman Nicole Acle said they would like to see a salary of about $100,000.

“What the county commission suggested is about a 46% increase in salary,” Holloway said.

Acle told council members this week she would like to see a pay increase that aligned with salaries in similar jurisdictions. She noted Cecil County’s executive had an annual salary of about $99,000.

“I would think that is a better gauge on what we set the salary at,” she said. “I feel more comfortable with that.”

Councilman Bill McCain, however, disagreed.

“Even at $124,000, as recommended by the commission, that would be the second lowest paid executive in the state of Maryland,” he said. “Ours was originally set in 2006 at $85,000, and it has never changed.”

Acting County Executive John Psota told council members this week his position oversees 25 funding departments, nearly 600 employees and a $160 million-plus budget.

“This isn’t a ceremonial position, but a boots-on-the-ground position, working hard every day to take care of county business, which I argue is ever increasing in speed …,” he said. “It’s just getting more and more difficult.”

Officials also noted the current salary for the director of administration was set at $120,000. Cannon noted a salary recommendation of $100,000 for the county executive position was significantly less.

“We’re looking at a recommendation for the county executive that’s less than what the county administrator would be getting, which doesn’t make sense,” he said.

County attorney Paul Wilber said increasing the executive’s salary would require a legislative act by the supermajority of the council. With only four in favor of the proposed $124,000 salary, officials agreed to postpone discussions on compensation for the county executive and sheriff.

“We will postpone that until we have a broader perspective through the study of what the recommendations are for salaries,” Cannon said.

The council, however, did agree to advance the commission’s salary recommendations for council positions. A legislative bill to increase pay for those positions will go before the council for approval next month.

“Obviously, you want a high salary for these things because you want people to view it as a job they take seriously,” Councilman Josh Hastings said. “This is very low compared to the rest of the state, but I’m OK with it still being one of the lowest in the state.”

Dodd and Holloway said they would recuse themselves from voting on the council salaries, stating that they planned to file for reelection.

“If I was to vote, I’d vote no on this matter because this isn’t a career,” Holloway added. “It’s done more to help the community.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.