Baltimore County, police unions reach agreement

Officers give up cost-of-living adjustments, pay more into pensions in return for job security

April 07, 2010|By By Mary Gail Hare | The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County police officers and deputy sheriffs have agreed to forgo cost-of-living adjustments and pay more into their pensions in exchange for job security.

Under contracts ratified by the unions that represent 2,000 employees in the police and sheriff's departments, members may not be laid off or furloughed at least through June 2012, officials said.

They will receive previously scheduled increment and longevity increases, but not cost-of-living adjustments.

The firefighters union and several others have reached similar agreements with the county, subject to ratification by their members, county officials said.

"All the union leaders have signed off on the contracts, and we are confident their members are in sync," said Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr.

Michael Day, president of the county firefighters union local, said the agreement takes into account "the very difficult economic climate that exists in the nation and ensures that fire and EMS personnel will keep their jobs and that the people of Baltimore County will continue to be safe and secure, where they live, work and play."

County officials say the deals will save at least $14 million and as much as $24 million per year.

The county faces a projected $144 million shortfall in the current budget. Smith is due to explain how he will close the gap at a County Council meeting April 15, when he is also scheduled to deliver his budget proposal for 2011.

"This is a great example of labor working to get us fiscally sound in these difficult economic times," Smith said. "These agreements and the savings will also allow the next county executive breathing space."

Smith is due to leave office in December, when his second term ends. At least four of the seven County Council members are also vacating their seats.

Under the agreements, police and firefighters will contribute an added 1.5 percent of their pay to their pensions, for a total of 8.5 percent, while general government workers will pay an additional 1 percent, for a total of 7 percent.

"Governments across the nation cannot sustain the benefit structures that are in place," county spokesman Don Mohler said. "If these unions want benefits there when members retire, they had to agree to these changes."

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