General Assembly OKs Salary Boosts for Cecil County Sheriff, Orphans Court Judges
The Maryland General Assembly has passed legislation boosting future salaries for the Cecil County Sheriff and the three judges on the countyâ€™s Orphans Court, but the sheriff will still be paid less than law enforcement heads in many other smaller counties with less crime and fewer responsibilities.
The legislation, SB936, was sponsored by Cecil Countyâ€™s two senators, Nancy Jacobs (R-34) and Steve Hershey (R-36). There was no companion bill offered in the House by the countyâ€™s delegates, but the Senate bill cleared both chambers without any dissenting votes. The Senate initially endorsed the bill on 3/4/14â€”with amendments to add a late request from the Orphans Court judges for a pay boostâ€”while the House voted 134-0 on 4/4/14 to approve the measure.
The salary increases would not take effect until after the November general election, when a new Sheriff will be elected and the court seats are also on the ballot. Barry Janney, the current county Sheriff, is retiring at the end of the year and there is a broad field of candidates seeking to replace him.
Several months ago, Janney asked County Executive Tari Moore and the Cecil County Council for a salary boost, saying that he had been reluctant to ask for a raise for himself during his three terms as Sheriff. But with a new sheriff slated to take over the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement and operation of a large detention center, Janney said it was imperative to boost the salary to attract top quality talent and bring Cecil County in line with other countiesâ€™ compensation.
Currently, the Cecil County sheriffâ€™s pay of $71,500 is the third-lowest in the state, with only the small, rural counties of Allegany and Somerset paying less. And many senior members of the Cecil County Sheriffâ€™s department make more than their boss, due to overtime and salary scale steps.
Under the state Constitution, a sheriffâ€™s pay cannot be reduced by a county government and state legislation is required for an increase. The salary and related costs are paid by a county government. The Cecil County sheriffâ€™s pay was last raised under 2005 legislation that increased the salary from $54,000 in several incremental steps over several years.
Under the new legislation, the Cecil County sheriffâ€™s salary would rise to $75,075 in Fiscal 2016; $77,350 in Fiscal 2017; $79,675 in Fiscal 2018, and $82,075 in Fiscal 2019. A fiscal policy note accompanying the legislation reports that the pay raise will also result in higher county costs for fringe benefits that are related to salary (such as Social Security and retirement), amounting to an extra cost of $1,235 in Fiscal 2016 and rising to $3,650 in Fiscal 2019.
But even with the new raises, Cecil Countyâ€™s top cop would still be making less than sheriffs in many other nearby counties in the state with lower population and responsibilities are already earning. The fiscal note on the legislation observed that Queen Anneâ€™s countyâ€”with a population less than half that of Cecilâ€™s 101,696â€”paid its sheriff $95,000 in Fiscal 2014. And Dorchester County, with just 32,551 residents, paid its sheriff $89,500 last year.
Closer to home, the Elkton town police chief is currently paid $91,300 while the town of North East pays its local chief $85,000.
The legislation in Annapolis reflected County Executive Mooreâ€™s scaled-back version of Janneyâ€™s original salary request for his successor. (Janney said the salary should be boosted to $87,000 or $90,000 to be more comparable to other law enforcement agencies with similar responsibilities.)
But even Mooreâ€™s lower pay proposal initially ran into a roadblock at the County Council, which at first opposed any pay raise under an unlikely alliance of Councilors Robert Hodge (R-5), Diana Broomell (R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3). [See previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/01/cecil-county-council-splits-on-any-pay-raise-for-new-sheriff-county-exec-asks-smaller-boost-than-retiring-sheriff-janney-proposed/ ] But the Council eventually relented and endorsed Mooreâ€™s proposal.
Piggybacking on the Sheriffâ€™s pay proposal was a last-minute request by judges on the countyâ€™s three-member Orphans Court to raise their salaries. An amendment added to the Sheriffâ€™s bill in the state Senate would boost the judgesâ€™ pay from the current $5,500 a year to $6,500 in Fiscal 2016, $7,500 in Fiscal 2017, and $8,750 in Fiscal 2018.
All three court seats are at stake in this yearâ€™s elections and pay raises would not take effect until next year. The Orphans Court oversees estates and administration of wills for deceased persons and the judges told county officials that their workload had increased substantially in recent years as the countyâ€™s population has grown.