The Frederick County executive is “woefully” underpaid, as one council member put it this week.

That could soon change, along with the part-time wage paid to County Council members.

Unable to reach an agreement Tuesday evening, the council will try again next week to decide whether to increase the salaries.

If the council does support the move, the county executive’s pay would jump from $95,000 to $137,000 in the 2022 term, which would be after the next election.

This would be the first increase in salary for the county executive since the position was created in 2014 as part of the county’s charter government.

All seven council members agreed on the new salary amount, though Councilman Steve McKay (R) was opposed to raising the amount in one lump sum. He proposed phasing in the increase over four years, which would raise the county executive’s salary $10,500 annually until it reached $137,000.

“I don’t disagree with the number,” McKay said. “I just can’t see doing it in one lump jump like that.”

Councilman Kai Hagen (D) said during the meeting that he "could support" McKay's proposal, though Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) was adamant that the position warrants a lump sum increase.

“I will tell you, having worked hand-in-hand with the county executive for the last three years. ... It’s a 24/7 job, you don’t get to phase in any of the responsibilities,” Keegan-Ayer said.

In its report to the council, a review commission tasked with recommending salary changes said that an increase would attract higher caliber candidates for the county executive position and would more adequately account for the time and effort dedicated to the job.

Keegan-Ayer — and other council members — echoed this, saying that managing the county’s $670 million budget and more than 2,400 employees requires “the most qualified, highly competent” candidates.

Harford, the county most comparable to Frederick in terms of population and operating budget, paid its county executive $137,500 in 2019, according to data from the Maryland Association of Counties.

Among the state’s nine charter governments, only Wicomico County pays its county executive less than Frederick, according to the data.

Frederick council members were more split about whether to increase — from $22,500 to $35,000 — the salary paid to council members.

Three council members supported the raise, three were against and one, Hagen, recommended the increase be phased in over four years.

Hagen will need support from the three members in favor of the salary raise for the phased increase to be included in the council’s resolution.

Keegan-Ayer is among those opposed to raising the council’s salary, and she said the trio is unlikely to budge.

Harford’s council members make $32,500, and the council president makes $42,000, according to the Maryland Association of Counties. Harford County Council is considered full time, as its members receive health benefits and the body meets more often than a part-time council, like Frederick, typically would.

Frederick County Council will meet again June 29, at which point discussion about the compensation recommendations will resume.

In four years, Frederick County will again review compensation paid to the executive and council members.

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan

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