Charles W. Robinson, director of the Baltimore County public library system, was sitting in the dentist's chair one day last winter, "figuring that I'd be richer if I retired."
That's because retirees in the state and county pension systems get annual cost-of-living increases. And active county workers haven't gotten a raise in salary since 1990.
At 64, the outspoken Mr. Robinson is eligible for retirement but doesn't want to leave the post he's held since 1963.
As he gave his situation more thought that winter day, an idea came to him. Why not retire but keep working and get the cost-of-living increase. It sounded crazy at first, but now it's about to become reality.
Mr. Robinson and his longtime deputy director, Jean Barry Molz, 65, are members of the State Teachers Retirement systems. They will officially retire July 1. But neither will leave their posts.
After they "retire," they will get the bulk of their pay from their pensions. The county will pay the rest of their yearly salaries. The gimmick will save the county roughly $72,000 in fiscal 1993. County officials have agreed to allow the library system to use the savings to hire more part-time help.
Mr. Robinson currently earns $90,896, and Mrs. Molz $77,896. But neither earned those amounts this fiscal year because budget cuts forced 10-day furloughs for all county library employees.
The library director has 36 years of work credited toward his pension. After July 1, Mr. Robinson will get about $35,000 of his pay from the county and the rest from his pension.
Ms. Molz has 42 years in the retirement system from her work first with the city's Enoch Pratt Free Library and then with the county system starting in 1964. She says her pension hasn't been precisely calculated yet.
Because they will get annual cost-of-living increases in their pensions, their in comes will grow, even if other county employees get no raises.
"People who retired 10, 12 years ago were getting 10, 12 percent increases," Mr. Robinson said, recalling the high inflation in the early 1980s.
"I wouldn't believe you could do it," Mr. Robinson said this week of his brainchild. But the idea became a plan that became a provision in the county's fiscal 1993 operating budget.
Because of Mr. Robinson's brainstorming, the county library system will suffer only a 10 percent cut in its fund for part-time employees. County Executive Roger B. Hayden had originally imposed a 30 percent cut.
Mr. Hayden praises both Mr. Robinson and the director's idea. "The guy has made our library system one of the best in the county," the executive says. "He's a very selfless man, very practical." Mr. Hayden says he approved the idea because it saves the county money and helps the library system.
Mr. Robinson says he would like to work another four to 10 years.