2021 | Government

Adding two County Council members will cost more than $1.9M

Council considering $92,000 in building renovations

File photo

Montgomery County expects to spend more than $1.9 million to add two new seats to the County Council, a structural change that voters approved in November’s election.

The two positions will begin their term in December 2022, creating an 11-member council. A redistricting commission recently began meeting to discuss the plans for how to divide the county into seven districts from its current five.

The council is currently made up of five district members and four at-large. The new council will have seven district seats and four at-large.

Of the more than $1.9 million, $92,000 is currently being considered as a supplemental appropriation for Council Office Building renovations. The funds would come from general obligations bonds.

The renovations are to make room for the two additional council members in the building. Interior modifications will be made to add two suits and ancillary spaces.

Adding the two members increases renovations costs to about $500,000. A prior appropriation of $408,000 for renovations will cover the remaining costs.

The excess $408,000 is coming from funding for the existing renovation project for the Council Office Building.

Marlene Michaelson, the executive director of the council, wrote in an email that the new renovations will cost more than $500,000 but there is no final number yet.

“The design work provided for in the new renovation appropriation will give us a better idea of the costs that will be involved,” she wrote.

Currently, an IT upgrade is being made to the third-floor hearing room. The council clerk’s work station is also being reconfigured.

Because there isn’t enough space on the fifth floor to accommodate two additional council members and their staffs, the two offices will be placed on another floor in the building.

The supplemental appropriation, which was introduced on Jan. 26, is scheduled for a public hearing and vote at 1:30 p.m on March 2.

The current salary for council members is $140,142. Each council member receives the same salary with the exception of Council President Tom Hucker, who receives 10% more.

By law, the council is entitled to a Consumer Price Index increase to their salaries , but has declined the raise this year .

“This council elected to give back this 1 percent CPI increase during the budget deliberations,” Michaelson wrote.

In addition, benefits for council members are approximately $31,000 each.

A budget of $535,000 is provided to each council member for personnel and benefits costs for staff members, as well as operating costs.

Council members can hire as many staff members as they want within that budget. Each of the current members has about four to five full- or part-time employees.

Of the $535,000, $20,000 is used for operating expenses and about $22,000 is used for benefits for each staff member. The benefits can vary between $20,000 and $40,000, depending on the salary, FICA, benefits selected and retirement eligibility, according to Michaelson.

“At this time, we aren’t expecting additional costs beyond the new council positions and the buildings renovations,” Michaelson said.

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Cost of adding two council members

Salaries: $280,284
Benefits: $62,000
Staff and operating expenses: $1.07 million
Council office improvements: $500,000 with more expected

Total: $1.9 million

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.