OCEAN CITY – With little discussion, resort officials last week approved an ordinance on second reading what will substantially increase the annual salaries for the mayor and councilmembers.
Late last year, it was brought up the salaries of the town’s elected officials should be increased, or the pay hike should at least be explored. At the time, councilmembers earned $10,000 per year, while the mayor’s annual salary was $30,000. The salaries of the town’s elected officials had not been increased since 1989.
The catalyst for the proposed increase was a belief in the increased workload for the Mayor and Council coupled 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 this fall.
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 Nov. 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 $50,000 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 last week for a second reading of the ordinance. The council voted 6-0 with Councilman Peter Buas absent to approve the salary increases as presented.
City Manager Terry McGean did careful research to arrive at 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 months.