Council bill would ease members' pension rules Five stand to gain earlier city benefits under proposed legislation

November 16, 1995|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

In addition to the 28 percent raises for the Baltimore City Council, five members stand to gain earlier retirement benefits under legislation that would ease pension requirements for all officials on the legislative panel.

After 12 years of service, all council members would receive 30 percent of their $36,000 salaries and health benefits once they retire, if the bill passes. The proposal has widespread support on the council.

The current system has two sets of requirements:

If a council member turns 50 before the end of a third term -- 12 years -- the member is vested automatically.

Otherwise, a council member must serve four terms -- 16 years -- before being vested. Some members call the current retirement system biased.

"The way that [the current system] is written, it discriminates against people who are elected at a younger age, which I think is totally unfair," said 1st District Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr.

"We should be playing by the same rules."

Five council members would benefit by the change: Anthony J. Ambridge, Lawrence A. Bell III, Sheila Dixon, Martin O'Malley and Mr. D'Adamo. All but one were elected in 1987 and they will not turn 50 -- and therefore would not have been vested -- before the end of their third terms in 1999.

The change would cost taxpayers $48,000 more for the five who would be eligible.

"In the realm of things, it is not a lot of money," said Ernest J. Ginka, retirement systems administrator.

But the retirement system change will likely become more costly over the years if more young council members are elected.

Of the seven incoming council members, three who would have to wait 16 years to be vested under the current system would have their wait shortened to 12 years: Helen L. Holton, 35, Keiffer J. Mitchell, 28, and Stephanie C. Rawlings, 25.

If the bill passes, it will go into effect when the new council session begins Dec. 11.

As this session comes to a close, legislation that directly affects the council members, such as raises and retirement benefits, is being quickly ushered through.

On Monday, the council granted itself a 28 percent raise and a 58 percent raise for the mayor.

A public hearing on the issue is set for at 1 p.m. today in City Hall.

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