Council OKs bill to allow retirees to drive buses

Balto. County hopes to alleviate shortage

September 05, 2001|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Council unanimously approved a bill last night to allow retired county employees to drive school buses, hoping to alleviate a perennial shortage of drivers.

County retirees are ordinarily not allowed to take new county jobs, a practice known as "double dipping." The theory is that employees might retire earlier if they can take new county jobs while collecting their pensions. If that happened, the county would have to make larger annual contributions to the pension system.

"I don't think you're going to see a rush of county employees retiring to become bus drivers, but you may see some that are retired coming back," said Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat.

Two years ago, the County Council allowed an exception for a handful of retirees who had become bus drivers, but instituted stricter controls to prevent double dipping. County Budget and Finance Director Fred Homan said that since then, the administration has decided that allowing retirees to drive buses could be worth the cost -- about $150,000 a year in increased pension contributions.

Last year, the county contributed $11 million to its retirement system, but it has contributed as much as $20 million in other years.

The rule change could be an attractive option for retirees whose pensions are small, Bartenfelder said.

"Hopefully, what this will do is fill some of those vacancies out there, and we can get some kids home before dark," Bartenfelder said.

The council also approved a series of amendments to the county fire code to make it more compatible with the state code. Among the changes is a requirement that high-rise buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers over the next 12 years.

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