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As Long as We Remember...

September 8, 2014

Teachers’ Pensions and Candidate Gardner

Jill King

In January 2012, Gov. Martin O'Malley released the budget for 2013. This included a transfer of the liability for teacher's pensions to the individual counties, creating a huge controversy for many. Counties and the teachers unions across the state fought this transition.


The reason for the shift was so counties and local Boards of Education would pull in some of their out of control spending and realize the costs. Taxes were being collected statewide to fund all pensions; but, just like the gas tax, were being shifted to pay other bills.


Where education is heavily funded, with teachers receiving large and regular salary increases, leaders started to prepare for the issue by decreasing county liabilities or raising taxes. The Board of County Commissioners, headed by Blaine Young, followed the lead and started looking for savings, including funding Maintenance of Effort funding levels for the Board of Education.


Data from 2012 show that during that year there were 103,594 teachers enrolled in the state pension system with the current value then being $22,523,978,000 (yes that is billion) and the unfunded liabilities at over $11,728,737,000. This is just the state portion and does not include the local Boards of Education obligation.


The state decided to transition this liability to the counties slowly, with their initial obligation being about 50%. It provided the numbers to the counties to incorporate into their regular budget.


According to a Washington Post report, the impact statewide would be approximately $69 million.


Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties faced the largest impact, with their first year cost estimated at $47 million and $34 million respectively. The state agreed to red line these two counties and start their initial contribution to be about $14 million and $10 million respectively.


Here are the actual resident's costs and what is budgeted until 2016 for Frederick County residents: $5,893,461 in FY2013; $7,470,128 in FY2014; $8,438,605 in FY2015; and increasing to approximately $9,858,000 in FY2016, per information provided by county budget office.


According to a Maryland Association of Counties report, counties should look for higher than average funding to the pensions. With the shift, it was phased in and will be making a larger than normal impact in FY2017.


While Jan Gardner, the Democrat candidate for County executive, has been endorsed by the local teachers union, she has also been highly funded by the state teachers PAC fund and teachers.


When asked a question in the multiple forums to date, Gardner finds a way to incorporate education into her answer. It is a brilliant marketing strategy, although it shows that she has sided with a lobby much larger and powerful than any other in Frederick County.


By criticizing the current Board of County Commissioners for raising taxes, not only has she failed to recognize the changes in fire tax budgeting after she picked and chose rates for county and municipalities, she also fails to mention that we were gifted additional tax dollars needed for education.


How could she ignore that these increases existed, when Commissioner Lennie Thompson frequently reminded the board that the Board of Education and the county were failing to address unfunded liabilities, including pensions?


Here is an issue that Tax and Spend Jan Gardner ignores while catering to her donors. Is she planning on sidestepping the advice to reign in funding to teachers, by the failed state system? It sure seems like it.


While Ms. Gardner stands on her soapbox accusing the Young board of minimal funding to the teachers, using the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) as her argument, she neglects to give the facts.


The Blaine Young board has consistently funded mandated levels and provided additional for school upgrades and buildings, including monies for technology and teacher pensions. Costs for education also include other department’s budgets, such as the Sheriff's Department staffing at schools.


Taxpayers are asking Candidate Gardner how she is going to fund the “rain tax,” or what she will cut to fund her other pet projects, or if she will raise taxes?


Here are a few more questions.


How do you plan to fund the 100% increase to teacher's pensions in 2017, while keeping your promise to fund education at a higher level?


Since we can't judge what the economy will bring in future terms for elected officials, do you find that it will be fair – or fiscally prudent – to leave our future representatives with the bills you will incur by providing additional education funding for teacher raises and increasing the recurring payments for pension funding?


Remember when answering, teachers are still getting step increases and higher education increases in pay they are not going without what has been promised to them through contracts. The raises will be above and beyond other guarantees.


Retraining my brain for the future, conferring with the past...


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