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Registers of wills get bump in pay

Maryland’s 24 registers of wills can soon expect a little extra in their pay.

That’s because an across-the-board 16 percent raise — ranging from $14,000 to $16,000 depending on jurisdiction — will go into effect in the next term. Twenty-two of the clerks who are running unopposed in the General Election can already start thinking of ways to spend the money while those in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties will have to wait until after the final results are tabulated.

The increases were part of a package approved by the General Assembly in 2013. In that year, the legislature approved increasing the maximum salary for the position from $98,500 t0 $114,500 annually. The vast majority of registers of wills will not earn the maximum salary.

Under state law, the salaries of elected officials cannot be changed during midterm. The legislature sets the maximum salary for each of the 24 registers of wills. The Board of Public Works approved those increases during a Sept. 17 meeting.

In 2013, Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, noted that salaries are based on a scale that ranks counties by size from small to large.

“The amount of work is taken into the equation,” Frosh said in explaining the bill at the time.

Smaller counties such as Caroline, Garrett, Kent and Somerset are on the low end of the range and will be paid $101,100, an increase of $14,000.

Registers of wills in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties will be paid 114,500 annually, an increase of $16,000 over the previous term.

The amount of the raise is equal to about 2 percent a year since 2004 — the last time the legislature and the Board of Public Works voted to increase the salary.

Joseph M. Griffin, register of wills in Montgomery County, testified last year that the increase is equal to the pay increases that state employees have received in the same period.

“We’re just trying to catch up to where they are today,” Griffin said at the time.

The registers of wills in each county are responsible for administering estates, including providing forms, recording wills, auditing accounts and maintaining estate records. They also serve as clerks of the orphans court in their respective jurisdictions.

The salaries are paid for through the collection of fees and inheritance taxes collected in each jurisdiction. The balance of those fees and taxes go to the state general fund.

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