Workers' retirement incentive studied Few Baltimore County employees eligible for Ruppersberger plan

November 20, 1995|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Because of sluggish revenue and predicted state and federal cuts, the Ruppersberger administration will present tonight an early retirement incentive plan for a group of Baltimore County government workers.

The plan, which the administration hopes would attract about 150 takers, is designed to help gird against the possibility of layoffs, by saving up to $5.8 million in a year, while costing only about $1.2 million in extra pension benefits, county officials said.

County departments must make do with less money next year than they have this year, budget director Fred Homan said, and the incentives would help cut payrolls.

Mr. Homan and Michael H. Davis, who is spokesman and labor negotiator for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, say that about 350 of the county's nearly 7,000 employees would be are eligible for the incentives. The limited eligibility has produced a few complaints. No police, fire or 911 operators would be eligible.

The idea is to eliminate jobs the county has decided it can do without and employees who do work that other employees can do in addition to their current jobs, Mr. Homan and Mr. Davis said. Making the program available to all employees would not save money because vital employees who retired early would have to be replaced, they said.

The plan is to be introduced at tonight's County Council meeting and is expected to be voted on Dec. 18. If it is approved, employees will have from Jan. 1 to Feb. 23 to use the plan. To be eligible, employees would have to have 20 years of service, or be 60 years old with at least five years of service, and be in one of the job classifications listed in the bill.

Three incentives would be offered:

* A 5 percent bonus to a worker's base pay, which is used to calculate a pension. For a person earning $40,000, with 27 years of service, that could mean $1,000 more annual pension income, Mr. Homan said.

* Continuing full medical insurance for retirees with less than 30 years of service. Normally, only those with 30 years of service get full medical coverage.

* Giving those who choose to retire and have unused sick leave credit for additional months of work, lengthening their careers and consequently raising their pensions. That, Mr. Homan said, could add as much as 20 months to an employee's career, which would add 3 percent of base pay to their pension.

Edward M. Pedrick Jr., president of the mostly blue-collar Local 921 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said several workers who would not be eligible for the incentives have complained that others with less seniority would be eligible.

"I've got guys with 25 to 28 years who are ready to go out the door," he said, but who aren't eligible for the sweeteners.

Overall, however, he said, "It's a good opportunity for the ones that can afford to go."

James "Jim" Clark, president of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, a mostly white-collar group, agreed.

"I'd much rather see this than be faced with layoffs," he said. Mr. Clark also said he already has had complaints from people who would not be eligible.

Mr. Davis said that with a state budget shortfall already estimated at up to $100 million next year, and large federal budget cuts looming, the county must cut because revenue isn't growing fast enough to make up the difference.

"You have to downsize," Mr. Homan said. "We need to find more savings."

County government already is not filling positions that become vacant to save money in what officials call a "flexible job freeze," Mr. Homan said.

Baltimore County laid off more than 300 workers in 1993 during the worst of the recession.

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