President of the Board Gerald Clark opened with remarks that Calvert funds the school system with almost half of the county budget. The State having made promises on teachers pensions, is now asking the counties to honor them. Calvert funds over the Maintenance of Effort per pupil required by the State Law. If the pensions are not sustainable at the state level, how could it be sustainable at the county level? Funding the teachers’ pensions at the local level would be a major hit.
Commissioner Shaw said that all counties are working together in MACo against the shift, regardless of party affiliation. The amount of the unfunded teachers’ pension is $20-$22 billion dollars. Half of that will be shifted to the counties and will affect the county’s bond rating, if Governor O’Malley has his way. Right now Calvert’s portion is $240 million and will be due in July. The State required teachers to contribute 2% but the money went into the general fund to help alleviate the deficit. Then the amount will rise to $7.3 million each year. To make the pension sustainable, it should be defined benefits from defined contributions.
Sheriff Mike Evans said crime doesn’t slow down when the economy is down. He doesn’t want to ask his personnel to do more with less. But should the pension shift come to the county, his office will take a big hit. Pat Hoffman, Director of Calvert Library also remarked that the library system receives a majority of it’s funding from the county and a small percentage from the State. If the pension shift were to occur, the libraries would not be able to operate.
Chris Zimmerman, Director of Financial Assistance College of Southern Maryland, said cuts to the college would mean some courses would have to be cut and students would have to pay more for less. Debbie Russ, Representative from Calvert Education Association, added that poor public policy was not good and will hurt quality of education.
Jonathan Riffe, Chief of the Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department and Chairperson of the Calvert Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chiefs Council, spoke on behalf of all the Volunteer Fire and EMS and what it would mean if funding were cut to the departments. Allocations have been flat for the last few years and holding on to equipment past its service life has been a priority. The Capital Improvement Budget has $12.6 million in improvements through 2018, which is sorely needed, But should the teachers pensions be shifted to the county, that may go away.
Delegate Mark Fisher, when asked for his take on the shift, said “The folks who control Annapolis have mismanaged Maryland’s economy and the pension system. The attempt to transfer teachers’ pensions to the counties is proof of that mismanagement – and I do not support the transfer!”
Delegate Tony O’Donnell was also asked and replied. “I think it is a bad idea to shift teachers’ pensions back to local government at this time. If it happens, it will put pressure on local governments to raise taxes. Too many in Congress and too many in Annapolis are already planning to raise our taxes. Hopefully we won’t force local government to do the same.”
Margit Miller/Staff Writer/Editor