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County Supports Phased In Teacher Pension Shift

County Administrative Officer Fred Homan tells county legislators that effect of shift would be devastating to counties if it's not phased in.

Baltimore County would support a shift in teacher pensions from the state if it were phased in.

County Administrative Officer Fred Homan told a joint meeting of senators and delegates from Baltimore County that the county would support a phased in similar to what Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed last month.

"The governor's budget as submitted was designed to help the state government in terms of passing the costs on to the local governments in a form that gave the local governments back some revenue," said Homan. "It phased it in, in what I thought was a responsible manner."

Homan served on the state Public Employees' and Retirees' Benefit Sustainability Commission and voted in favor of a shift of some pension costs to local jurisdictions.

Sources familiar with the decision said the county's current position is consistent with the pension commission vote. It is in direct opposition, however, to the Maryland Association of Counties position on the issue.

Homan said the key to the plan is that it phases in the costs.

"The real question is how is the cost to be phased in," said Homan. "If that cost was not to be phased in and simply written over to the local governments, obviously that would be very very harmful to the governments and many could not deal with it. They don't have the fund balances and we'd have to have a tax increase to pay for it."

In addition to a phased in shift to the county, Homan said pension costs should be handled within the exisitng school system budget rather than forcing the counties to come up with extra money each year.

Under O'Malley's plan, Baltimore County could expect to pick up about $3 million in costs. Other county estimates place the cost under O'Malley's plan at $6 million to $10 million.

Both assume the General Assembly passes the tax increases that the governor uses to offset the costs to local governments in the first year. Many leaders of other counties do not believe those increases will be approved as proposed, if at all.

Without those offsets from the state, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz estimated the cost to the county could be . Sen. Jim Brochin, a Towson Democrat, said Friday he's heard the county could have to initially absorb as much as $60 million in teacher pension costs leading up to taking over the whole pension plan valued at about $90 million annually.

So far, Baltimore County is the only county to publicly support O'Malley's proposal to shift 50 percent of the cost of teacher pensions to local governments.

"The impact of the teacher pension shift would be crippling to the counties we represent," wrote Ingrid Turner, a Prince George's County Councilwoman and president of the Maryland Association of Counties. "This shift could impact our abilities to provide funding for our libraries, community colleges, and non-profits.  For a county like mine, it could even impact our ability to fund the public safety recruits we so desperately need."

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johnny towson February 10, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Slow down a minute. One year ago, the County Executive said no transfer of cost until the entire pension system was reformed. Call this what it is, quid pro quo. Kevin wants money for schools so he has to play ball on pensions. This is the same type of election-politics that contributed to the mess we are in. First, restructure the pension program so that it is sustainable and this does not include using appointments to the Personnel and Salary Advisory Board to selectively deny pensions and benefits; Second, be a leader and call the Governor to task. More of this shell game may work on paper for another year but it is killing the financial health of the county. The old guard is out of gas and the new guard is in over the heads.
Kris February 10, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Holy blog flooder batman! Dont you work?
moe green February 11, 2012 at 01:52 AM
So long as Kevin, Vince guardia, fat Sam Mosley and the whores of the county council get theirs nothing will happen All Hail Marty yo'malley, savior of the world
Jeff Magness February 11, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I agree the past politicians in Baltimore County seem to have their best interest at heart. Vince Gardenia and the rest of the network of good old boys who are now employed by Baltimore County ( Johnny O, Moxily and the rest) had no problem selling county employees down the river for his retirement and then get appointed by Kamenetz to make more money. Fred Homen says sure we can absorb the teachers’ pension, but what he doesn’t say is the rest of the county employees will have to pay for it by reduced benefits again. Everyone seems to forget when the county was crying poor me because they had to fund G.a.t.s.b.y several years ago. It was so urgent that they get the money to make sure they were compliant with federal guidelines. How did they try to fund G.a.t.s.b.y.do you say, they raped county employees of their health care and retirement benefits. Gatsby has not even close to being funded. SO where did that money go. Can anyone say slush funds? Baltimore County prays on the fears of the employees and the tax payers. Let’s hope the new county council can stand up for themselves and stay true to their election promises. We the people have the right for representation by honest politicians if not we have the power to remove them. Hold your local politician accountable and make sure they spend your money responsibly
K Blue February 11, 2012 at 05:33 PM
The topic of shifting teacher pension costs to the counties has been discussed for many, many years and appears to be inevitable. Homan's suggestion that pension costs "should be handled within the existing school system budget rather than forcing the counties to come up with extra money each year" seems like a solid idea forcing the local school system administration or the Board to carefully reevaluate its spending and procurement practices, many of which have been the subject of many comments elsewhere about unnecessary waste. I wonder, though, if the maintenance of effort provisions will remain the same if the pension costs are shifted. Also, is the Board going to get an independent auditor? I thought that was suggested a while back.
Buzz Beeler February 12, 2012 at 12:37 AM
The county's current pension liabilities are unsustainable and like many other municipalities the outcome is bleak. http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/News_Articles/2010/municipal-pension-systems.aspx Homan should appear on O'Reilly's no spin segment. A good grilling would show another cooked deal.

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