City Manager Recommends Mayor, Council Salary Hikes

City Manager Recommends Mayor, Council Salary Hikes

OCEAN CITY – The salaries of Ocean City’s Mayor and Council positions could see a significant increase based on recommendations presented during a budget introduction session this week.

City Manager Terry McGean this week presented his research into elected officials’ salaries in municipalities across the state and recommended significant increases for Ocean City’s Mayor and Council based on his findings.

Currently, Ocean City councilmembers earn $10,000 per year, while the mayor earns $30,000 per year. The salaries for both positions have not been raised since 1989.

Based on the research, McGean recommended the mayor’s salary be increased from the current $30,000 to $50,000, representing a roughly 67% increase.

McGean also recommended the council’s salary be increased from the current $10,000 to $20,000, representing an increase of 100%. McGean also recommended the council president’s salary be set at $23,000, because of the added time commitment and responsibilities.

It’s important to note the proposed Mayor and Council salaries would be afforded to future elected officials. The current council could vote for the salary increases through an ordinance, or the pay hikes could be put on the ballot as a referendum to allow resort voters to decide the issue. In either case, the pay increases, if approved, would not go into effect until after the November 8 municipal election.

“I know there has been some discussion about Mayor and Council salaries,” he said. “This is not in the budget, but I wanted to give you all an idea of what the impact of this would be if you did want to pursue it.”

McGean explained he researched 23 municipalities around the state based on two factors, including population size and the size the budgets the elected officials manage.

“I looked at all of these communities,” he said. “Ocean City is unique in that we have a small population and a small number of square miles, but it’s really a decent-sized city.”

For research purposes, Ocean City’s average population size was assumed at 70,000, and the general fund budget was set at $88 million. McGean said those assumptions were modest, particularly on the population side, because of Ocean City’s uniqueness as a season resort the population of which swells to 200,000 during much of the summer.

“A lot of times what we’ve done in Ocean City is sort of assumed our population of around 100,000,” he said. “For these purposes, I stuck with a more modest 70,000. I tried to adjust these salaries based on two things. One is population and one is what the budget was for the city. I did this for both the mayor and council.”

The research shows salaries, populations and budgets of 23 municipalities from one end of the state to the other. In Salisbury, for example, the population is 30,000 and the mayor’s salary is $25,000. In Annapolis, the population is 38,000 and the mayor’s salary is $98,000. In similarly-sized Frederick, the population is 65,000 and the mayor’s salary is $90,000. McGean said based on those assumptions, the recommendation for the Ocean City mayor’s salary could be higher than what he was recommending.

“If we adjusted it for population, it would be closer to $63,000,” he said. “If we adjusted it based what our budget is, it would be about $54,000. The staff recommendation, and when I say staff that’s basically me, because I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, is that the mayor’s salary be increased to $50,000. The mayor’s salary has not changed since 1989.”

A similar formula was used to calculate the recommended council salary increases.

“I did the same thing for the council,” he said. “The population adjusted for similar cities is about 70,000. The council salaries have also not been changed since 1989. There are huge variations. Part of it was just coming up with something that felt reasonable. Some of these factors really vary.”

McGean said he preferred the budget-based formula for determining if, and how much, the town’s elected officials’ salaries could be raised.

“If it were me, I’d use the budget-adjusted formula,” he said. “The population is a tough one because we’re so unique. To me, the budget really signifies a lot of the resources that you all are controlling and the responsibilities you have.”

Again, McGean said there was no need to move forward with the proposed recommendations, but he was getting them on the table at the start of budget deliberations.

“I know that I am springing this on you,” he said. “There has been a lot of discussion about it. I thought budget time would be a good time to review this.”

Councilman John Gehrig said salary increases could be an incentive to more candidates to throw their hats in the ring for municipal elections.

“Certainly, we have an election to get through,” he said. “That’s the way to do it and we can determine it. I know none of us are doing it for the money, but there are certain potential candidates that can’t do it because it takes so much time. If it gets more involvement in our elections, that’s a huge thing.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.