Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 20, 2007

A few facts on plan for officers

Fraternal Order of Police head John Shippee's May 6 letter to the editor raised some important issues regarding retirement and disability plans offered to the law enforcement officers of the county sheriff's office. For purposes of clarification and future discussion, here are the facts regarding the retirement and disability plan benefits currently in place for those officers:

1. Retirement Plans: Unlike other jurisdictions, all county officers are enrolled in two local retirement plans: a traditional "defined benefit" pension plan that provides lifetime monthly payments after 30 years of service (or at age 62) and a 401(k) plan to which the county makes contributions of between 3 percent and 6 percent of base pay. In order to receive the maximum 401(k) plan county contribution of 6 percent, an individual must contribute 4 percent of his base pay to the plan.

Adding Social Security retirement benefits to the mix, law enforcement officers who retire from the county sheriff's office have three sources of income during retirement. It is important to keep this in mind when comparing Carroll County's retirement plan benefits to those offered by other law enforcement agencies within the state.

For example, the retirement plans offered to local law enforcement officers in other areas of Maryland do not include employer contributions to 401(k) plans, and Maryland State Police officers are not eligible to draw Social Security benefits based on their time with the State Police.

2. Disability Plans: County law enforcement officers are eligible for both short- and long-term disability plans, 100 percent paid by the county. For officers permanently and totally disabled by a catastrophic injury sustained in the line of duty, substantial federal disability benefits are also available through the Department of Justice.

The retirement and disability benefits available to county sheriff's officers are more than competitive when compared to those available to the average American citizen. The question that must be answered, however, is "are they sufficiently competitive to attract and retain qualified officers?"

As has been pointed out, the county's pension plan offers a pension after 30 years of service; most pension plans for law enforcement officers in Maryland offer a pension after 25 (or in some cases, fewer) years.

It is also important to recognize that Carroll County relies on two local retirement plans instead of one, and on a disability plan provided separately from the pension plan.

In the process of drafting changes to the retirement plan provisions in place for law enforcement officers of the sheriff's office, it is important to keep in mind that a different approach than that taken by other agencies does not by itself mean an inferior approach.

William A. Bates

The writer is bureau chief of Benefits Administration for Carroll County.

It's time to consider a bi-county district

The time has come for the boards of education of Carroll and Frederick counties to revisit the idea of a bi-county school attendance district centered on Mount Airy for high, middle, and/or elementary schools. I envision a large, comprehensive committee, jointly charged by both boards, to consider the following issues, at a minimum, and to suggest recommended courses of action for each issue.

Issues include funding of operating budgets, funding of capital budgets, collective bargaining groups, negotiated agreements, instructional curriculum, extra-curricular programs, bus transportation, school attendance boundary, identify the school system the seniors would graduate from, handling of student discipline matters, handling of employee matters, and appeals to the board.

The committee should recommend a funding mechanism for consideration by the boards of county commissioners of Carroll and Frederick counties.

Although the Carroll County School Task Force and the Frederick County School Task Force already exist, neither was constituted to address the broad array of issues relating to a bi-county school attendance district.

While members of those task forces could be valuable contributors to the suggested committee, the membership of the suggested committee must also include expert staff from both school systems. Moreover, the suggested committee should be a "board appointed committee," thereby ensuring that all meetings comply with the Open Meetings Act.

The Mount Airy environs residential growth in Carroll and Frederick counties over the past decade has created similar public school issues in both counties. It would be a prudent use of resources for both school systems to jointly participate in addressing those issues.

C. Scott Stone Hampstead

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