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Pay hike for elected officials kicks in quietly

The Baltimore Board of Estimates on Wednesday noted no objections to an automatic 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for elected officials including the City Council, mayor and comptroller.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

The board, whose membership includes the comptroller, mayor and the president of the council, did not have to discuss or vote on the automatic annual adjustment. Since the board is responsible for all spending in the city it was required to list the measure as part the weekly business on Wednesday.

For Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the adjustment means her pay will go from $155,493 to $159,380 — a $3,887 increase. In 2010, Rawlings-Blake voluntarily declined the pay raise. This year, Ian Brennan, spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said the mayor planned to donate it to Baltimore City’s YouthWorks program.

Comptroller Joan Pratt’s and Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s annual pay will increase by $2,574 to $105,535.

Individual council members’ salaries will increase from $59,886 to $61,383 while the vice president of the council’s pay will increase $1,655 to $67,844.

The other citywide elected officials have also opted to contribute their net pay increase to charity.

“It’s kind of customary for the elected officials to do this, especially in these difficult times,” said Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis.

The new salaries took effect the first week of December.

A bill passed by the council in 2007 makes the 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase automatic as long as at least one municipal employee group such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees also receives a pay raise. All bargaining units received a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in fiscal year 2012.

And, a provision in the state constitution, Article III, Section 35, bans salaries for elected officials from being “diminished” during their term of office.

The raises are part of the $2.7 billion fiscal year 2012 budget, for which officials had to close a $60 million gap and contend with flat revenues. The city’s biggest source of revenue is the $2.268 per $100 of assessed valuation property tax, which only increased by 1.8 percent in the fiscal year ending July 1, 2012.

In 2008, the first year the automatic raises were in effect, then-Mayor Sheila Dixon drew criticism when she said she intended to keep the raise, citing her dedication and the cost of sending her daughter to college. She changed her mind a day later and said she would donate the net raise to charity.