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The Tentacle


March 8, 2012

BOE Candidates Position on Pension Shift

Amanda Haddaway

There have been rumblings from Annapolis that the state would like to push the funding of teacher pensions onto the counties. Many counties across the state have already stated that they are against this shift because it’s not economically feasible for them to take on the increased financial burden.

 

Montgomery County officials have gone so far as to say they would have to cut 600 teachers and increase class size, according to The Washington Post.

 

With our own Board of Education primary election quickly approaching, we all should know where candidates stand on this important issue. We asked the 12 candidates “If teacher pensions are shifted from the state to the county, how do you propose covering this additional cost?”

 

Only two candidates decided to respond. Their responses are included in full without edits.

 

Jim Hoover: “There’s no way to answer this question with any certainty. At this time shifting the pension cost to the counties is a proposal with a great deal of opposition in Annapolis. At this time it’s unknown what final outcome of the legislation may be. We don’t know if 100 percent of the cost or 50 percent of the cost may be shifted to the county? What is the total fiscal note associated to the shift? If the proposal passes, there will be some very difficult decisions that have to be made. Things such as furloughs and layoffs, cuts in school county services, increased class sizes, deferring purchases of text books and/or reducing or eliminate specific programs. Frankly, there are more questions than answers at this time. The only thing that is a fact at this time is if the state passes the proposed legislation to shift all or part of the cost of teacher pensions from the state to the counties it would put a serious strain on the county budget. At this time it’s too early to say with certainty what may be cut to cover the additional cost and what may not be on the table for consideration. In addition to any possible cuts that may have to be made we also need to have to find a way to increase the budget. We will not be able to cover the total increased by making cuts.

 

“The good news is I think we have several legislators in Annapolis who understand the seriousness of the proposal to shift the cost on to the counties. I hope we have enough to vote against the bill.

 

“Also, if the proposal is passed it’s unclear (at least to me) if the pension cost will count toward the county’s required Maintenance of Effort or not.”

 

Pam Ward: “Governor [Martin] O’Malley is proposing to shift 50% of the teacher pension cost to the individual counties, $229 million of the State Budget for FY’13. That is the equivalent of telling your child that you will pay for their college education, and after buying all the fancy cars and vacations you want, telling your neighbor that they are now responsible for your child’s college education. This shift to the county taxpayers is ridiculous and irresponsible, to say the least.

 

“Seven counties in Maryland could not even fund Maintenance of Effort (MOE) for FY’12. MOE is funding equal to the amount spent per-student in the previous year; the state requires counties to provide MOE or pay penalties. How are these counties going to now pay additional dollars to cover teacher pensions when they cannot keep up with MOE funds?

 

“In 2000, the state’s pension fund had a 101% funding ratio. Then, over 11 years, the state redirected pension funding into other areas of the state budget, so currently the pensions are only funded at a 65% ratio. (http://www.stoptheshiftmd.com From the Stop the Shift website)

 

“With a mandated funding responsibility of this size (which will continue to grow each year) to the county and the school system, the teacher’s will have to contribute more to their pension funds and the taxpayer will feel the burden as well.

 

“If counties are allowed to bundle the teacher pensions into the established county government pension plans, there might be a cost savings. Currently, the counties are saddled with the cost burden but not given their choice of overseeing the means of funding the pensions.”

 

Responses from the other ten candidates – Zakir Bengali, Tony Chmelik, Donna J. Crook, Colleen Cusimano, Kiesha La Kay Edmonds, Katie Groth, Emily Ann Meyer, Cindy A. Rose, Joy Schaefer, and Tom Shade – were not received.

 

amanda.haddaway@gmail.com

 

 



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