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Harford Government, Police, Schools Oppose Teacher Pension Shift

At a press conference Monday afternoon, County Executive David Craig and others voiced their opposition to the proposed shift of teacher pensions from the state to the county.

Harford County leaders presented a united front Monday opposing Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to shift part of the cost of .

County Executive , Sheriff L. , Superintendent of schools and , president of the Harford County Board of Education, each spoke briefly arguing against the proposal during a press conference Monday afternoon.

The proposed shift in pension costs is part of the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2012 laid out by O'Malley.

Craig said Harford County will incur $9.8 million in added costs if the proposal is approved and that the cost would increase to $14.7 million by 2017.

Craig said the cost for teacher pensions would eat the entire county budget for fire and EMS services, the department of housing, the health department and other county services.

“It would be a wipe-out for us and every other county,” Craig said.

Craig went on to say that while there are offsets in the O'Malley plan to pay for the pension costs, those offsets are unrealistic and will have little impact on Harford County.

"Claiming that you're balancing the budget by shifting the cost to someone else is disingenuous to say the least," Craig said during the press conference.

He likened the proposed shift to offering your child a credit card during college and promising to pay for it, then halfway through, deciding you can't and telling your second child to pay for it instead.

Bane said the downturn in the economy has already left the sheriff's office with a limited budget.

"While I’ve been creative, I’ve been struggling to hold the line on crime," Bane said.

The sheriff said the national average is 2.7 officers to every 1,000 people in the community, but the Harford County Sheriff's Office is operating well below that average with .8 officers to every 1,000 people.

"I have cut all I can in my operating expenses I have nothing left to cut but personnel," Bane said.

Tomback said it is not only local decisions that drives state retirement costs, and the proposal comes at a time when school systems are gearing up to implement programs such as the federal education program, Race to the Top.

"That’s why we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the county executive today in opposition of the pension shift," Tomback said.

Wheeler said he opposes the budget act because it would set the county back.

"We went through great pains to protect this institution of education, we passed laws to do that," Wheeler said.

Susan Lesser, an official with the Maryland State Education Association,  stood in for Harford County Education Association president Randy Cerveny and edorsed Wheeler's sentiment.

"We’re very very concerned about the students, about the employees and the effect this is going to have on education," Lesser said.

Ten other people representing county services that would be impacted by the pension cost shift stood in support behind the podium during the pess conference.

Ed Jr. February 27, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Are you kidding me Bane? Stop your nonsense. How can you be Sheriff when you can't perform simple math? For some reason you always fail to include the State Police, Aberdeen Police, Bel Air Police, and Havre De Grace Police in your counts. Stop whinning about your budget. If you were so concerned, you wouldn't have paid Mark Forwood for months and months for performing zero work. Shame on you Bane!
Barney Kaufman February 28, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Ed Jr. What in the world does that have to do with teachers pensions. If your mad at Sheriff bane use another forum. Sheesh.
Ed Jr. February 28, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Barney, try focusing on Jesse Bane's comments.
Tom Fitzpatrick February 28, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I don't like this either. For one thing, leaving teacher's pensions with the state at least holds out hope that teachers will still get decent pensions when the time comes. Per pupil spending on public schools varies widely from county to county, with Harford's being one of the lowest. The only way to redress that balance is to raise property taxes considerably or cut county costs, which have already been cuts substantially. Of course, the county government could kick the can down the road and let the unfunded pension liability build up. And that's the real danger!!!!!!
Karl Schuub February 28, 2012 at 07:44 PM
I get it...so they don't want the county that actually acts as the employer and negotiates these salaries to be responsible for paying them. What they want is to get the money from the state, that has no money, which has to actually get the money from the federal government, that has no money, which they actually get from the Chinese, etc. in the forms of loans...and voi la; we have found our way to a 15 trillion dollar debt. It will certainly be an eye opener for the local citizens who won't so willingly ignore just exactly what the real rates of pay and benefits are...especially when local government will have no choice but to raise taxes. I expect there will be some form of norming to include not just the raising of taxes but the lowering of benefits - if not you'll see a taxpayer revolt like you've never seen before.
FLRush February 28, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I hope to God we get O'Malley out of there before he bankrupts all of us.
Ed Jr. February 29, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Bane's facts are simply misleading - please see Dagger article, address below. http://www.daggerpress.com/2012/02/28/gahler-sheriff-bane-is-either-uninformed-or-is-not-being-candid-in-his-comments-concerning-deployment-of-county-law-enforcement-resources/#comment-99521
Terry March 01, 2012 at 02:10 AM
The really scary thing is that Owe'Malley has plans to run for a higher office in 2016 and it is said to be President. We seem to be doomed as a state and we are already experiencing socialist dictatorship with the current Liar-In-Chief at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!
1ke March 01, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Shrewd analysis,Terry. Socialist dictator. Ah, me! Guess you get my vote in 2016.

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