Council Proposes Retirement Age Hike

February 21, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

The County Council wants to raise the retirement age for appointed and elected county officials from 50 to 60 years.

However, county attorneys question whether an employee's right to retire at a certain age can be rescinded.

A bill raising the age at which officials may collect their pensions was introduced unexpectedly by the council in the final minutes of its Tuesday night meeting. The measure was sponsored by all seven council members, ensuring its passage.

"When it's introduced by allseven, you don't give a damn what anybody thinks," said Councilman George Bachman, D-Linthicum, when asked if he expected opposition fromemployees affected by the bill.

The bill applies to employees whoretire on or after July 1, 1991. A law allowing appointed and elected officials with at least 16 years of service to retire with pension benefits, regardless of age, remains unchanged under the new bill.

Only "a handful" of appointees and elected officials without 16 years of service are nearing age 50, said Richard Mayer, the county's personnel director.

In 1989, the council was sharply criticized for reducing the retirement age for elected officials and top-ranking department heads from 60 to 50. The council wanted to make the retirementage consistent with that of police and fire officials, who may receive pension benefits at age 50 after 20 years of service, said Council Chairwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River.

"The rationale was that we wanted to keep our top management," Clagett said. "Now, rethinking it, we decided (a retirement age of 50) may not be wise in future years."

Bachman, who spearheaded the bill with David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, and Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, said he's concerned that the reduced retirement age is draining the county's pension fund. He also wants to make sure new appointees aren't coming to Anne Arundel just so they can enjoy early retirement.

"We've got a lot ofnew people coming into this county and working. These people are coming in thinking they'll retire at 50; let's tell them up front they'll retire at 60."

Adrian Teel, the county's administrative officer,said the Neall administration supports the 60-year retirement age. In fact, the administration was preparing similar legislation but had not yet resolved constitutional questions about raising the retirement age.

A private law firm hired by the county personnel office concluded that giving, then retracting, an employee's right to retire at50 may be a violation of constitutional rights, said Dave Bliden, the county's legislative liaison.

County attorney Steve Beard is reviewing the council's bill to make sure it meets constitutional and legal requirements.

A public hearing on the retirement bill is scheduled April 1.

In other business Tuesday:

* The council passed abill raising the fares county cab drivers may collect. The increasedrates include a 50-cent surcharge for trips originating from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Ken Gillespie, president of the BWI Airport Cab Association, told the council cab revenues have dropped 50 percent since the economy turned downward and the gulf war began. Meanwhile, liability insurance and other expenses have risen.

The rate increases amount to a 23 percent pay raise, or about $8,000 a year, he said. Gillespie,who has three children, said he now nets about $9,000 after expenses.

About 200 drivers have permits to operate cabs in Anne Arundel; 120 drivers work out of BWI airport.

* The council postponed approving the use of $777,000 in state Program Open Space money for the Bates Middle School ball field renovationsin Annapolis, expansion of the historic Shiplap House in Annapolis and acquisition of a site for a proposed golf course on Fort SmallwoodRoad.

Uneasy because of rumors that the state is cutting back POSallocations to local governments, the council refused to approve a bill appropriating the money until the county comptroller certifies that the money is coming to Anne Arundel.

Last fall, Joseph McCann, county director of parks and recreation, convinced the council to usethe money for the Bates project and the horse farm property to help pay for a West County ice rink site. He assured the council that the money would be replaced when the state made its next POS allocation.

McCann said he is confident the state Board of Public Works and the General Assembly will approve the $777,000, which is a special grant given from the state's portion of POS. POS money, collected from real estate transfer taxes, is split evenly between the state and the county.

The big fear, he said, is that the state will cut the counties' regular POS allocation. If that happens, each of Anne Arundel's capital parks projects would be in jeopardy, McCann said.

* Clagett introduced two bills concerning sand and gravel operations and clayand borrow pits. One bill extends a moratorium on new applications for such operations, while the other establishes new zoning requirements for both.

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