Pension QuestionI read with considerable dismay and...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 26, 1994

Pension Question

I read with considerable dismay and consternation the April 16 editorial entitled, "Hayden Takes Care of Business."

My concern focuses on The Sun's opposition to affording Baltimore County fire fighters and paramedics improved retirement benefits.

The editorial implies that the proposal is questionable from an economic standpoint and smacks of political gamesmanship. Both assertions are categorically false.

It is certainly true that many public pension systems lack financial stability and boast significant unfunded liabilities.

Thankfully, in Baltimore County that is not the case. In fact, the Employees Retirement System is among the nation's top-ranked in terms of both system management and funded status.

The system's longtime actuary, Buck Consultants, which has served the county for the last 48 years, affixes the cost of the proposed benefit enhancement at 2.95 percent of payroll.

Under the provisions of the contractual agreement, this cost will be borne exclusively by the county's fire fighters and paramedics.

We will be purchasing the improved benefit formula directly out of our 4 percent cost of living adjustment.

Neither the retirement system nor county government will be footing any percentage of the cost. The integrity of the retirement system will be preserved.

The proposed 25-year retirement benefit is a necessary and long overdue improvement. Compared to our counterparts in all other major jurisdictions, the retirement benefits granted to county fire fighters are the lowest in the region.

Equally as important, our employees already pay more in terms of a percentage of payroll than our colleagues elsewhere.

Very simply, this change provides equity. Internally, within county government, county police officers currently enjoy a 20-year retirement system, regardless of age.

From an economic perspective, since fire fighters are not included in Social Security, the county spends less on retirement benefits for fire fighters then it does for any other class of employees -- uniform or civilian.

In conclusion, the proposed changes are fair and equitable. Moreover, the method of funding these improvements assures the continued stability and fiduciary soundness of the retirement system.

To imply otherwise is simply untrue.

Kevin B. O'Connor

Cockeysville

The writer is the president of the Baltimore County Fire Fighters Association.

Controversial Issue

I read with dismay Robert Erlandson's April 12 coverage of the first public forum held on the proposal to close one of the state's regional psychiatric hospitals.

Mr. Erlandson leads the reader to believe that all participants -- except for the Mental Health Association of Maryland -- opposed hospital closure.

This was simply not the case. In fact, numerous speakers, including community mental health service providers and ex-patients, spoke on behalf of hospital closure.

This is a complex and controversial issue. State employees certainly have a vested interest in the outcome of this decision.

It is important to note, however, that while other states have faced the difficulties of closing state hospitals in order to provide less restrictive settings for their mentally ill citizens, Maryland continues to rely heavily on inpatient services, at a very high cost to the taxpayer.

Closing one out of thirteen state-run hospitals is a moderate and sensible approach given the scarcity of funds for mental health services.

It is time to plan for the closure of one of our state psychiatric hospitals. Economic imperatives demand it, as do human rights considerations.

Lori Doyle

Catonsville

The writer is president elect, Maryland Association of Psychiatric Support Services.

El Salvador

To the excellent March 27 article by Kenneth Sharpe and the equally excellent letter by Sister Patricia A. Rogucki on April 13, I should like to add some further points on the U.S. war against the people of El Salvador.

The U.N.'s Truth Commission, along with many international sources, have reported that the U.S.-backed Salvadoran regime murdered nearly 70,000 civilians since 1980.

Here is some background:

* In March 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated on orders of Roberto D'Aubuisson, a U.S.-trained military officer who founded the fascist ARENA party that still rules the country.

* In December 1980, four American church women working with the poor in El Salvador were abducted, raped and murdered by U.S.-trained Salvadoran National Guardsman.

United States officials like Alexander Haig, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Elliot Abrams and Vernon Walters lied through their teeth in covering up these atrocities.

* Throughout the Reagan-Bush years, the Salvadoran government murdered clergy, peasants and union organizers. Most military commanders who committed these acts were trained by our government.

* In November 1989, six priests and their two housekeepers were butchered on the grounds of the Jesuit Battalion on orders of Salvadoran military leaders.

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