UPPER MARLBORO – Members of Prince George’s County Council may receive a one-time pay increase of $10,000 per annum starting in December to offset the loss of their automobile allowance, according to a recently released report.
Officials presented the 2017-2018 Prince George’s County Compensation Review Board report and recommendations presented to the county council on Jan. 23.
The recommendation will be approved on April 30 unless the council votes by at least two-thirds to amend it.
“The Compensation Review Board has worked diligently conducting an extensive review of the salaries, benefits and pensions of Prince George’s County elected officials, and those in our neighboring jurisdictions, and we are thankful for their dedication to this effort,” County Council Chair Danielle Glaros said. “The council will be reviewing the recommendations and supporting documentation in the weeks and months ahead.”
Supporters of the pay raise argue it will offset the loss of the automobile allowance to bring the council members’ pay closer in line to council members in neighboring jurisdictions.
Last year, Prince George’s County Council members made $120,347. In the same year council members in Washington, D.C. made $137,144, Montgomery County councilmembers made $136,258, those in Fairfax County made $95,000, Baltimore City $68,000 and Baltimore County leaders made $62,500.
“We have some outstanding public servants and elected officials working on behalf of county residents and the public is generally unaware of the effort that is expended on their behalf,” said Compensation Boardmember Jim Estepp. “While we cannot provide compensation similar to that of a corporate entity, the compensation board’s recommendations are moderate and in line with the work done on behalf of the citizens.”
Prince George’s County Councilmembers have previously been eligible to use take-home vehicles or to receive an automobile allowance of about $10,300.
In September, the county’s Vehicle Use Review Board recommended ending the allowance and take-home vehicle programs. All of the county’s neighboring jurisdictions provide their councilmembers with mileage reimbursement rather than an allowance. None of these jurisdictions offer councilmembers take-home vehicles.
A 2017 Washington Post investigation discovered in 2016, these car allowances cost the government more than $110,000. The Post reported that between 2011 and 2016, “council members driving take-home cars” were involved in at least 15 collisions and 107 speeding, missed-toll and parking citations.
In November 2017, police arrested Councilman Mel Franklin on DUI charges after he crashed his county-owned vehicle into another car. He had a blood-alcohol-content of 0.10. The county vehicle sustained significant damage and two occupants of the other car went to the hospital for minor injuries. The county reviewed its vehicle policy as a result of the incident.
While the recommendation would go into effect in April if the council does not take action, the pay increase would go be for the next sitting council, which will be elected in November.
Franklin, who is running for one of the council’s at-large seats, is the only member who has expressed opposition to the pay raise.
Franklin was not available for an interview with The Sentinel, but told WUSA-9, “This policy is a bad idea. There’s no need for some special allowance. We have a salary that’s consistent with the region that is fine, there’s really no need for any more increases.”