It was a good public policy call by the Mayor and Council to allow the registered voters of Ocean City to decide whether their elected officials should get considerable pay increases.
The issue will be in the form of a referendum on the municipal ballot for Ocean City citizens next month. The specific recommendation to increase salaries came from City Manager Terry McGean after research of municipalities with similar sized budgets and populations.
On the table is a proposal to increase the mayor’s salary from the current $30,000 to $50,000 (a 66% raise); adjusting councilmember salary from the current $10,000 to $20,000 (100% jump); and the council president’s salary from $11,000 to $23,000 (109% increase). Annually, as proposed, the budget impact of the eight elected officials’ annual salaries would jump 91%, from the current $101,000 to $193,000. It’s worth nothing the compensation package also includes generous health insurance coverage if accepted and entrance to the state retirement program.
In the past when Berlin increased its council and mayor rates to the current $7,500 and $15,000, respectively, the change did not go into effect until after the next election. This way it was not the current council giving itself a raise. The same approach was recommended in Ocean City or for the issue to get on the ballot. The council unanimously supported the referendum route, while offering support for the measure last month.
The issue of elected officials’ compensation has come up several times in recent years in Ocean City. Back in 2010, a proposal was floated to bring the compensation for elected officials in Ocean City in line with the Worcester County Commissioners’ rate of $25,000 a year plus $3,000 for expenses. The measure was ultimately tabled as the city was going through a “right sizing” process of cutting spending.
It will be interesting to see where the citizenry falls on this matter. The residents will likely find the increases to be too significant. We agree on the surface, but there’s a point to consider for the residents. For many years, Ocean City has suffered from a severe shortage of qualified candidates for public office. Running for elected office comes with certain negatives, such as criticism and time away from work and family. There is a cost associated with it. Some interested candidates find the balance too much and the juice not worth the squeeze.
These are points for the citizens to consider. If it’s voted down, it will be because it’s too much of an increase at one time. This will be an understandable rub for the voters, but we think letting them make the ultimate call is the right move.