Salaries of top District officials are relatively low compared with those in other large U.S. cities and in the Washington suburbs, according to a new study by the D.C. Office of Personnel.

Mayor Marion Barry said the findings of the study show "a pressing need" to raise salaries of top executives who have been "biting the bullet for years."

Some 259 full-time city employes are paid $56,301 a year, the maximum scheduled rate, the survey found. About half of these are medical officers in the Department of Human Services and at D.C. General Hospital.

Most large cities pay more than $56,301 for top executives, even though the District serves as state, city and county government combined, the study said. On the other hand, the survey ranked the District against cities with significantly larger populations.

The District's city administrator, not subject to the same ceiling as other city employes, is paid $67,200, which is seventh among 10 major cities and $13,560 less than the median salary for those cities, the survey found. The city administrator's salary ranked third among six area jurisdictions, it found.

The D.C. fire chief ranked eighth among 13 cities surveyed, and the police chief 10th among the 13. Locally, two out of five area jurisdictions paid their fire chiefs more than the District and four out of six paid the police chief more.

The lowest comparative ranking of a top D.C. executive was for the corporation counsel, who is paid $10,419 less than the median for the large cities, ranking 11th of 13. In the metropolitan area, the D. C. corporation counsel was fifth of six in pay.

The D.C. transportation director, on the other hand, is paid $10,667 more than the median for the large cities surveyed, ranking third of nine. The director of recreation is paid $7,957 more than the median and ranked third of eight cities with comparable positions.

In making a pitch for higher executive salaries, Barry said that pay increases for top officials have not kept pace with those in other areas, making it more difficult to attract and keep top management talent.

City employes at lower levels, on the other hand, have received annual increases and are paid at rates comparable to those in the federal government and other local governments, he said.

"Our top executives have been biting the bullet for years as we worked to achieve full services and pay comparability for employes at other levels within the constraints of limited resources and the need to solve longstanding financial problems," Barry said in a statement released with the report. "We now have a pressing need to revise executive salary scales."