Central Delaware
Legislature to hear data on proposed salary raises

DOVER — Since November the six-member Delaware Compensa­tion Commission has crunched and punched numbers and listened to pay-raise requests to draft a Com­pensation Commission report that seeks raises for seven cabinet secre­taries and the state’s judiciary.

The report will be presented to the state legislature when it convenes on Tuesday.

“It was a very open, transparent process,” said Michael Ratchford, Delaware Compensation Commis­sion chairman.

The commission meets every four years to study and recommend sala­ries, emoluments, mileage, per diem, travel and other expenses for execu­tive, judicial, legislative and other elected officials.

By Delaware code, the report, with any provisions, will take effect as of July 1 unless the General Assembly rejects the report in it’s entirety 30 days after the legislature convenes.

Mr. Ratchford said the commission sought to keep in mind the long-term structural and financial issues with the state when planning the almost 25-page report.

“We are presenting a report that is responsible and certainly is judicious in terms of any salary increases,” he said.

The 2013 commission had to attend to salary discrepancies, following from a lapse in commission reports — the last report with measurable salary recommendations was presented in 2005.

The lapse in pay increases were a concern to offi cials who petitioned at the commission’s public hearing Dec. 13.

Presenting on behalf of the judiciary, Chief Justice Myron T. Steele had presented a host of salary increases which, he said, will improve judicial recruitment and retention.

As an example he had proposed 6 percent salary increase effective July 2013 and another 6 percent rise in July 2014 for the chief magistrate, so salary is on par with the judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He had presented a $ 500 raise for Supreme Court judges to restore some seniority above the chief judges of the Superior, Chancery and Family courts.

Even with the tough fi nancial times, Mr. Ratchford said the commission worked to balance the numbers in accordance to comparable jurisdictions.

The commission’s proposed recommendations includes that $500 increase for associate Supreme Court justices from $190,639 to $191,860 above chief judges of the Superior, Family and Chancery courts, in fiscal year 2014.

However, judicial pay increases could increase later — in July of fiscal 2015 and fiscal year 2016 — each for 3 percent. For instance, a Court of Common Pleas associate judge could see a pay bump from $173,949 to $184,542 by fiscal year 2017.

The Office of Gov. Jack A. Markell had also petitioned for slight increases in the salaries of certain cabinet secretaries in order to ensure retention and competition.

Mr. Ratchford said to assess salary increases, the commission looked at which positions had significant increases in responsibilities as well as the salary requirements of offi cials in surrounding states.

The secretaries of the Department of Health and Social Services and State could see such increases.

The DHSS secretary, who oversees more than 4,000 people, would see a 3 percent increase in both fi scal year 2015 and 2016, to jump from $147,370 to $156,345 by fiscal year 2017.

The Secretary of State would have a 3 percent increase in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 to gain an increase from $127,590 to $139,421.

“The Secretary of State was the fi rst line of defense — that would undermine Delaware,” Mr. Ratchford said of not adjusting the salary.

The governor’s office did not propose an increase for salary so as the report stands, Delaware’s top elected offi cial would still earn $171,000 yearly plus general increases in fiscal year 2014 through fiscal year 2017.

The commission also abided by the legislature requests for no increases in salary as well as no change to pensions.

Mr. Ratchford stressed salaries are not contingent on the individuals, but rather the role they play to attract, retain and ensure a talented support base for an administration.

“It isn’t just about this administration, it’s thinking about future administrations,” he said.