OCEAN CITY — An increase in the salaries of the Mayor and Council inched closer to becoming a reality this week with the approval of an ordinance on first reading.
Throughout the last year or so, the Mayor and Council and staff have been discussing an increase in their annual salaries, which had not been raised since 1989. The catalyst for the proposed increase was a belief in the increased workload for the Mayor and Council couple with the assumption the enhanced salaries could attract more candidates for the town’s elected positions. For example, just four candidates vied for three open council seats and the mayor ran unopposed during the municipal election earlier this month.
The sitting council when the issue was largely discussed earlier this year decided the proposed salary increases should be put before the voters during the November 8 municipal election in the form of ballot questions and not simply decided by themselves through the ordinance process.
For the mayor’s position, the proposed salary would increase from the current $20,000 per year to $30,000 per year, representing a roughly 67% increase. The councilperson salary would increase from the current $10,000 to $20,000, representing an increase of 100%, while the council president’s salary would be set at $23,000 because of the added time commitment and responsibilities.
During the Nov. 8 election, the town’s voters solidly approved the proposed salary hikes for the elected officials. A total of 1,223 votes were cast in favor of increasing the mayor’s salary, while 823 were opposed. Similarly, 1,210 voted to increase the council and council president salary, while 845 were opposed.
With the endorsement of the town’s electorate, the mayor and council salary increase came before the elected officials on Monday in ordinance form for first reading. The council voted 6-0 with Councilman John Gehrig absent to approve the salary increases as presented.
City Manager Terry McGean researched the proposed salary figures. 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 during earlier discussions those assumptions were modest, particularly on the average population side because of Ocean City’s uniqueness as a seasonal resort the population of which often swells to over 200,000 during the summer.
The research shows salaries, populations and budgets of 23 state municipalities. In Salisbury, 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.