Wicomico Council Salary Increases Approved

SALISBURY – Wicomico officials voted this week to increase salaries for county council members.

On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council voted to amend the county code to increase council salaries by $5,000 for members, $6,000 for vice president and $7,000 for president.

Councilman Larry Dodd abstained from voting and Councilman Joe Holloway opposed the increase.

“I am running again for county council,” he said. “I know it’s for the next county council, but I am going to vote no and leave it at that.”

In December, members of the Wicomico County Compensation and Allowance Commission came before the 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.

Since that time, the council has voted to increase the sheriff’s salary to $117,000. And on Tuesday, officials voted 5-1, with Holloway opposed and Dodd abstaining, to approve the recommended salary increases for the county council.

In a public hearing preceding the vote, Wicomico resident Robert Taylor, the former council attorney, said he supported the pay increases, but argued it should be more. He noted, however, that the county’s charter prevented the council from adopting an increase that was more than the commission recommended.

“Frankly, I think the council is entitled to a lot more …,” he said. “The point of the matter is a lot more is required of the council then I think this commission took into account and probably realized.”

Taylor also compared the council’s salaries to those in other jurisdictions.

“In every county except this one, the pay of a council member – the base pay – is at least 25% of what the executive makes,” he said, noting that commission recommended a 46% pay increase for the county executive but only a $5,000 increase in base pay for the county council. “I wish there was some way the $5,000 recommendation they made could be exceeded because it’s long overdue.”

The Wicomico County Council this week also voted 4-3, with Dodd, Holloway and Councilwoman Nicole Acle opposed, to introduce a legislative bill increasing the executive’s salary from $85,000 to $124,000.

Councilman Bill McCain noted the proposed pay raise was nothing new, as the commission has recommended similar increases for the past eight years.

“This has been recommended numerous times,” he said, “and we certainly acknowledge the current pay for the position for the requirements of that position has been grossly inadequate.”

Those opposing the 46% increase, however, argued the proposed salary was too high. Since January, they’ve called for amending the proposed increase to $100,000.

Holloway added that the salary recommendations from the previous commission, which convened in 2018, failed to get any support from the council at the time.

“I don’t know what has changed from four years ago,” he said.

Council President John Cannon acknowledged the previous recommendation was largely dismissed over issues between the council and prior executive.

“You and I both know why it wasn’t raised,” he said. “I personally think it was more of a personal issue than it was an actual issue of deciding what the rate should be … I think the idea this year, in 2022, is to right a wrong.”

With no further discussion, the council voted to introduce the proposed salary recommendation.

“From here we’ll do a public hearing and then a formal vote on the bill itself,” Cannon said.

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.