Bel Air Employees Granted Cost of Living Increase

The final vote for the Town of Bel Air's FY 2013 Budget took place during the Board of Commissioner's regularly scheduled business meeting Monday.

The Bel Air Board of Commissioners passed the with a unanimous vote Monday evening.

The $15.7 million budget was amended to include a 3 perecent cost of living increase for all town employee as well as additional legal costs.

Carey said the town has done well with available funds during tough times. Carey said even with $600,000 less to work with in FY 2013, the town is able to provide needed services such as a traffic light at Gateway Drive and Boulton Street as well as a cost of living increase for employees.

"Hopefully the worst of it is over," Carey said."

The traffic light at Gateway and Boulton has been an addition the English Country Manor development has been requesting for years. The traffic light is in the budget for FY 2013.

Several members of the community were present for the budget hearing and expressed their pleasure at the inclusion of funding for the traffic light.

The fee for parking in the Hickory Parking garage will double in the coming fiscal year, increasing from 25 cents an hour to 50 cents an hour, based on the approved budget.

Check out the meeting notes below for an in-depth look at what happened during the meeting:

8:39 p.m.: The meeting is adjourned.

8:38 p.m.: Hopkins congratulated the Bel Air High School boys lacrosse team for their performance in the state semifinals. “They damn near pulled it off.”

8:36 p.m.: Hopkins thanked Meeks and the others in English Country Manor for working so well with the town and constantly pursuing it. “You’ve demonstrated how the town works with the board of commissioners and hopefully how the board has worked with you.”

8:36 p.m.: Carey thanked the commissioners for their work on the budget.

8:36 p.m.: Einhorn thanked the town for their hard work “and I’m glad to see a lady on board.”

8:34 p.m.: All vote in favor of approving the budget as amended.

8:34 p.m.: Carey said even this year, the town reduced the budget by $600,000 and is still able to provide needed services such as the traffic light at English Country Manor and the cost of living increase.

8:33 p.m.: Carey said the work on the budget begins before the first of the year. “Hopefully the worst of it is over.”

8:33 p.m.: Carey said the last request would include a transfer from the general fund to recognize a 3 percent cost of living increase for all town employees.

8:32 p.m.: Increasing marketing by $2,000 and removing the George Street Culvert project for $10,000.

8:31 p.m.: Commissioner David Carey asked the budget be approved with certain amendments including increase in legal charges.

8:30 p.m.: The board votes unanimously in favor of this fee resolution be introduced.

8:27 p.m.: Moody said the credit card company recommended the institution of a rate of about $4. Moody said the town would set a maximum transaction of $150 or $250 with one flat fee for the sewer transaction. The staff recommends the board receive this resolution. A public hearing is scheduled for June 4.

8:27 p.m.: The town staff asked the town stop absorbing the credit card payment based on the volume of people using this method.

8:26 p.m.: Commissioner Susan Burdette moved to introduce a resolution to accept convenience fees for credit card payments.

8:25 p.m.: Robertson told the mayor this chemical root control has reduced sewer line back ups by 20-30 percent. All voted in favor of the contract.

8:24 p.m.: Mayor Edward Hopkins said many people are not aware how serious the problem of root infiltration can be. Many of the areas in older neighborhoods used terra cotta pipes that are more easily eroded by roots.

8:21 p.m.: Commissioner David Carey moved to approve a contract with Dukes Root Control totaling $35,000 for Sewer line root control maintenance. The town was offered the opportunity to piggyback on this contract between Baltimore City and Dukes. This year the town plans to treat Shamrock.

8:21 p.m.: Hopkins thanked the town commissioners for working with the community on the budget.

8:19 p.m.: Commissioner Susan Burdette said she felt every dollar in the budget was accounted for by department heads and that they did a great job in conserving.

8:18 p.m.: Commissioner Robert Preston said he feels it is important that the town do the budget every year as a matter of taking inventory.

8:18 p.m.: Commissioner Robert Reier said it is a time consuming process and thanked everyone involved in the budget.

8:18 p.m.: Adolph also echoed the comments on the traffic light at English Country Manor.

8:17 p.m.: Robertson and Schlehr said a plan has been improved by FEMA and MEMA for the flood plan, in response to Adloph’s question about what the timeline for that would be.

8:16 p.m.: Moody said revolving accounts that roll from one year to the next are in the special revenue fund.

8:15 p.m.: Randy Robertson, director of public works said the improvements should help inflow and infiltration problems.

8:14 p.m.: Greg Adolph asked if the sewer inflow and infiltration improvements would go into place and when it would be completed.

8:13 p.m.: Philip Einhorn said he was going to hold back his disappointment that the funding for the traffic light wasn’t in the budget, the board of commissioners said it is.

8:12 p.m.: Jerry Turk, president of English Country Manor said for years the 400-condominium community has been asking for a light at Gateway Drive and Boulton Street for years and urged the town to keep the money for the traffic light in the budget.

8:11 p.m.: John Meeks from English Country Manor expressed the community’s support for a traffic light at Gateway Drive and Boulton Street.

8:11 p.m.: The total for the special revenue fund is about $579,000.

8:10 p.m.: The revolving loan fund will include $75,000 from the town’s unassigned funding and $50,000 from the state.

8:08 p.m,: The CDBG project has an increase of about $85,000 to go toward a project on George Street. This money is provided by CDBG and is specifically designated funding.

8:07 p.m.: No new projects are pending so the storm water management fee line is empty. There is an additional $70,000 in that fund but there is no opportunity to spend that money.

8:06 p.m.: Town finance director Lisa Moody went over the special revenue fund. This is located on page 2 of the 7-page budget.

8:02 p.m.: Postage shows an increase due to rising costs from $1,600 to $1,960.

8:01 p.m.: The total for the parking fund revenues and expenses is about 1,166,000.

8:00 p.m.: The county funds two-thirds of the parking garage’s operating costs.

7:59 p.m.: The parking meter collections are expected to increase from $159,000 to $210,000 due to added meters on the BB&T parking lot and an increase from 25 cents to 50 cents for parking in the Hickory parking garage.

7:59 p.m.: The total expenditures for the sewer fund is about 2,188,000.

7:57 p.m.: Shamrock pump station emergency generator is slated to cost $25,000 and is in the budget for the coming fiscal year.

7:56 p.m.: Tonight by amendment the town plans to move $15,000 to the 2013 budget for a project in English Country Manor that was slated, but not done in fiscal year 2012.

7:55 p.m.: Amortization expense on prepayment of debt originally owed to county for buying into the sewer system. The town has since refinanced the debt. About 24,000 is budgeted for FY 2013 from $36,000 last fiscal year.

7:53 p.m.: Harford county charges line item shows a decrease. This amount is what the town pays the county to defray cost of transferring water, Schlehr said.

7:52 p.m.: Connection fees are expected to remain the same as the previous fiscal year.

7:51 p.m.: The sewer rate is slated to increase by 16 cents based on the county’s removal of certain nutrients.

7:50 p.m.: Schlehr said sewer user charges show about $80,000 decrease.

7:49 p.m: Schlehr said the budget is balanced at unchanged real property rate of 50 cents of $100 assessed value the personal property tax at $1.16 of $100 of assessed value. These rates are unchanged from last year.

7:47 p.m.: Town Administrator Chris Schlehr began the public hearing on the FY 2013 budget by saying it must be passed by June 1, so if it is not passed tonight the town must hold a special session.

7:47 p.m.: The board amended the agenda to vote on unfinished business the voted unanimously to approve the ordinance.

7:45 p.m.: The public comment section on the ordinance closed.

7:44 p.m.: “There is going to be very little impact other than St. Matthew’s for this very simple text edit,” Kahoe said.

7:43 p.m.: Robert Kahoe representing St. Matthew’s said it is a “benign text amendment” and bringing the town in uniform with the county R2 district. The church is looking to build about 100 units.

7:41 p.m.: St. Mattehw’s Church asked the building height limit from 30 feet to 35 feet and for permissible stories to be changed from 2 feet to 2 and a half stories. Small said the planning commission recommends approval of the amendment.

7:41 p.m.: The hearing on the building height for R2 district as requested by St. Matthew’s began.

7:35 p.m.: The first place winner drew The Homestead.

7:34 p.m.: Steven Lentz earned second place in the competition for his drawing of Mrs. Dunnigan’s hotel and restaurant.

7:32 p.m.: Brian Payne with the Historic Preservation Commission thanked the community for help in the poster contest. There were 150 submissions and all of them will be converted into place mats to be used at area restaurants.

7:30 p.m.: Robert Reier went to the podium to give a presentation to the Historic Preservation Commission. Reier pronounces May “Historic Preservation Month.”

7:29 p.m.: The meeting was called to order.

7:28 p.m.: The commissioners took their seats.

Nick May 22, 2012 at 09:41 AM
How nice for them. I had to take a job making less money to stay employed. Must be nice to have that kind of job security and to get a raise too.
Mark May 22, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Teachers in Bel Air haven't had a COL increase in 4 years...oh well, who cares?
Nick May 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Most people in the private sector haven't either and they rarely get the benefits that are afforded government employees.
FH John May 22, 2012 at 05:28 PM
It amazes me how a few years ago government jobs couldnt compete with the same jobs in industry because of lower pay but did offer the advantage of security during tough times. Now it seems those who choose industry are whining because they are being laid off.
Karl Schuub May 22, 2012 at 06:52 PM
The structure whereby civil servants had low paying, although secure employment hasn't been true for a couple decades...about the time unions got involved. Funny...we kept hearing that same song up and until we private sector employees started looking at the real numbers. Turns out somebody's been made a chump, but the gig is up - tough economic times forced it. Did you know that there are free rental cars at the ready for APG employees that agree to take public transportation? Interesting that the taxpayers also pay a monthly stipend for either the train or the bus for these folks, but we also pay to have this fleet of vehicles on hand in case somebody needs to go home early. Guess you can contract just about anything when nobody that's negotiating the contract has their own money involved. Seems outrageous to me, but this is the sort of thing that makes the taxpayers furious...but I digress.
FH John May 22, 2012 at 07:43 PM
I certainly wont make a blanket statement for all civil servants, but I know for a fact that I had many colleagues leave govt jobs in the past ten years for higher paying/better benefits job in the private sector doing the same work. They are now being laid off and trying to get back into the govt for security. As for your free rental car, I work at APG and have never heard of such a thing. If your job is permanently moved to a new location you dont get per diem travel expenses. I have friends in the private sector that get company cars and use them for personal stuff as well but I digress. We'll agree to disagree.
Nick May 22, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Well John, I can't speak directly to what you do or your department, but I have a job that affords me an opportunity to see the inner workings of various government institutions and let me say that in the ten years I have had this opportunity I have seen extraordinary waste. The worst was the social security administration. I saw more people painting their fingernails or playing any variety of mind numbing games than I did doing actual work. Keeping this in mind, I hate to see yet another increase in government spending when the waste and lack of productivity is astounding. I have also met many hard working individuals who did not abuse the system but they were far outnumbered by those that would be fired in a private sector environment for their lack of productivity. How about if we want to give raises out to public employees we do so by eliminating those that are just freeloading off the rest of us? Look at a company like GE. They fire 10% of their work force every year and hire more people on. The idea is that your current employees will work harder to keep from being at the bottom, you are able to weed out those that can't produce, and you are able to continue to try out new talent that may exceed the current employees. I would like to see what impact such a policy would have on government waste. Incidentally John, one of the places that I saw the least amount of waste was APG. Social Security and the IRS were by far the worst.
Karl Schuub May 23, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Federal employees are by law allowed a $230.00 stipend for using public transportation and that includes arrangements for van pooling. MDDOT also allows APG a program called GRH...that stands for guaranteed ride home. Means that mom's who might otherwise hesitate to take the train in case Johnnie gets a runny nose have cars available and ready at their disposal and use. It was all laid out as part of the Brac transportation study and resultant discussion televised a couple years ago regarding traffic congestion resulting from additional traffic. As a taxpayer who goes through the McHenry Tunnel at $1.50 each way every single day it sort of burns me that these DC subway riders are being paid to get to work using the form of transportation they'd have to take anyway. That's like a 3K bonus subsidized by others. It's offensive to most private sector employees that these sorts of sweet bennies are doled out routinely.
Karl Schuub May 23, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Should have clarified that $230 is a monthly allowance.
Tim Montoya May 23, 2012 at 01:33 PM
I am always glad to see employees get raises, especially when the cost of living has increased, but I think the table have turned and have turned way to far to the other side. I recall growing up and those with government job had job security. Not great paying jobs, but they knew if they performed well enough, they would retire with the same employer. Now government( http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-03-04-federal-pay_N.htm ) jobs make more than private sector jobs and they argue for cost of living increases. In the private sector, if a company has no funds, they cannot increase fees or taxes to pay their employees more. Usually what happens is a company will lay off a few employees to keep the rest. We all have to remember, the cost of living is coming at the expense of the tax payers.
JustiNotherWarmBody May 24, 2012 at 04:20 AM
I work for a Balto. Co.and approximately 5-6yrs. ago,my neighbor,who co-owes a home construction business that made VERY GOOD money,would see me off on a vacation day.He would ask me if I had the day off and I would reply "yes,that I had to use it or lose it"(I don't take much time off) and he would make a comment, "It must be nice". After several times of hearing his rude statement several times,I asked him if he would like me to get him a job with the Balto. Co.I also advised him that the starting pay was between $10-$12/hr.,Of course he said "oh no". Funny,he never made any more comments after that. Where were all you people when Local Governments were seeking quality workers when the economy was thriving? You weren't complaining THEN.NOW you would DIE for one of our positions.
JustiNotherWarmBody May 24, 2012 at 05:15 AM
Tim,as a local government worker I am also a taxpayer!So I work to pay some of my own salary. Balto. Co. just gave an early retirement incentive,to SOME of their employees.Five guys that I know who took it and went with a private company.They started out making a lot more money,then they were making with 25+ yrs. with the Balto. Co. As far as cost of living raises,I honestly can't remember when I had one.I do get a longevity raise ever 2yrs..A WHOLE 33 cents/hr..And what is the price of GA$ & MILK? I do feel for the many people who are without jobs and losing their homes.For many years I regretted not working for private business for higher pay,but now that I am towards the end of my public agency career ,I now appreciate the fair biweekly pay check and time off and I've learned how to be self reliant,because I couldn't afford to pay for home or auto repairs.Also my kids have learned that they could not always get whatever the wanted and go on expensive vacations.
AG May 24, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Gov't employees, in most cases, do not make more cash than their private sector counterparts. The benefits are what really push them ahead. Compare the value of your pension plan, that has cost of living increases, early retirement and minimal if any employee contribution to a 401K plan seen in the private sector. Similar situation with the medical and disability insurance plans. And don't forget the cost to the Govt to eliminate or tolerate substandard employees and all the holidays compared to the private sector. I think we could more easily end this debate by transitioning all the Govt employees to a 401K and an insurance benefit plan comparable to an "average" plan offered in the private sector. Then that tremendous cost savings could be moved into cash for the employees, so they could pay for their gas & milk. It would also end a lot of the arguing between public sector and private sector folks about who is getting the "great deal."


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