A common-sense deduction

Carroll County: Commissioners erred by keeping their workers out of valuable United Way campaign.

September 17, 1999

DO NOT THINK them uncharitable, the Carroll County commissioners say. They are simply looking out for their employees by not allowing county government to be part of the payroll deduction system of the United Way of Central Maryland.

For the second time in three years, the commissioners rejected an appeal by the United Way to allow county workers to contribute to the umbrella charity through payroll deduction. Carroll is the only Baltimore metro county without a United Way employee payroll donation option.

The commissioners have again injected ideology where it doesn't belong. The commissioners don't have to conduct a "campaign." Individuals can choose of their own free will to specify the charities to receive their donations, or not. They can even prohibit contributions from going to causes they disfavor that are under the United Way umbrella.

Offering payroll deduction for United Way giving is not coercion. It simply allows employees to choose this easy way to contribute to charities they wish to support. The Carroll County school system has United Way payroll deductions, without employee complaint. The county's library director headed the local United Way campaign two years ago.

The commissioners have no problem themselves handing out taxpayer money to charities. Every year, nonprofit agencies such as Human Services Programs Inc., which also gets United Way funding, receive grants from the commissioners, who consider their programs valuable.

It's no major philosophical step for the county to allow its employees a chance to do the same through payroll deduction. Given the demonstrated public benefits of United Way charities for Carroll, and the increasing need in the county's own back yard, it's a small, reasonable step -- one the commissioners should have taken.

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