United Way pitches payroll deductions

Charity hopes county will let workers give through paychecks

August 05, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Carroll's status as the only county served by the United Way of Central Maryland that doesn't allow its employees to donate to the organization through payroll deductions might change today.

Volunteers with the nonprofit agency met with the county commissioners yesterday and asked them to give Carroll government employees the opportunity to donate through paycheck deductions. A survey conducted several years ago showed that about 6 percent of the county's 930 employees would take advantage of the program if it were offered.

The commissioners are expected to vote on the issue today. A time for the public meeting had not been set late yesterday.

During yesterday's meeting, Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier seemed to support the idea.

"I think our employees would like to have the option available to them, especially if they had a say in where their contributions go," she said.

Frazier said she would like to have Safe Haven added to United Way's list of affiliated programs, so that contributors can direct their money to the Westminster shelter. The 25-bed shelter serves homeless people with mental illness, substance abuse and addiction problems.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who is serving his third term on the board, said he was opposed to establishing the payroll deduction program, fearing it could appear to be an endorsement by the county or could constitute coercion if employees feel pressured to give. He voted against similar proposals during his previous two terms.

"My concerns haven't gone away," Dell told the United Way volunteers. "I'm still concerned about having the perception out there that the commissioners are saying to county employees, `you should do this.' If I were in the private sector, running my own business, I could do what I want. But as a public official, I have some reservations."

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge did not attend the meeting yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Many of the county's largest employers -- such as banks, Random House, Western Maryland College, Londontown Manufacturing and Carroll County General Hospital -- allow their employees to make United Way contributions through payroll deductions.

The United Way Community Partnership of Carroll County raised $309,678 in corporate and payroll deductions last year, said Virginia W. Smith, chief executive officer of Union National Bank and chairwoman of the nonprofit group's local fund-raising committee.

In turn, the United Way of Central Maryland, which includes Baltimore City and the counties in the metropolitan area, gave $928,600 to Carroll through grants to community agencies such as Human Services Programs Inc. of Carroll County, Scouting groups and the Red Cross.

"As far as the worth of the United Way in Carroll County, I've seen it 100-fold," said Paula Langmead, superintendent of Springfield State Hospital and chairwoman of the United Way Community Partnership of Carroll County.

United Way officials and volunteers haven't given up hope the commissioners will allow a payroll deduction. They left literature with the commissioners, outlining the benefits of establishing the program.

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