As a cost-saving measure, and to “try to avoid layoffs” next year, county employees were notified Tuesday of a special retirement buyout offer, Harford County Executive David Craig said.
Positions left open by those who accept the buyout will be eliminated or consolidated for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1.
But there’s a sweetener for those who take the deal by its March deadline: a one-time 100 percent return on the value of accumulated sick leave, compared to 50 percent currently. Craig said that the offer will apply to the 25 percent of the county workforce that is currently eligible for retirement.
Craig’s announcement came at a press conference held Tuesday in Bel Air to discuss and update local and state budget issues.
The plan could save the county an estimated $3 million to 5 million next year, Craig said during the press conference. However, Craig’s spokesman, Bob Thomas, later backed off of that estimate, saying budget officials are uncertain how much might actually be saved.
If other county agencies, including Harford County Public Schools, Harford Community College and the Harford County Public Library also decide to take similar measures, Craig said the savings could be higher.
Craig said he met with those county agency heads over the holidays and also asked them to “hold back”—or cut—five percent from their current fiscal year budget, in light of the ongoing tough economic conditions. He said he also ordered other county department heads to trim their budgets by the same amount.
According to a county press release, Craig has also ordered each agency and department to cut its budget by five percent for fiscal year 2011.
For the current budget year ending in June, Craig said that no more furlough days will be required for county employees beyond the five already built into the budget, three of which have already been taken. But he said that up to five furlough days may be built into next year’s budget, which Craig is expected to release in late March.
Craig said recent “volatility of revenues” has affected the county budget, including reduced highway user fees and lower income and property tax revenues but rejected what he called “doom and gloom” predictions, saying that with proper planning, “We will get through this.”
As the recently-elected president of the Maryland Association of Counties, Craig said that the organization is unified on two issues involving the state budget.
Craig said that the group will advocate in the Maryland General Assembly for modifications to the appeals process for Maintenance of Effort, or MOE. MOE is a state requirement which mandates that per pupil funding for public education remain level from year to year. However, counties can, and often do, fund public schools above the minimum MOE requirement. Craig said that when economic conditions affect counties’ ability to pay for MOE, “sometimes you have to back off.”
Craig said the costs of state teachers’ pensions won’t be shifted to local government this year, because the state has already planned to use federal stimulus money for fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2011.
But before the state considers pushing future teachers’ pension costs onto the counties, Craig said they should reconsider an increase to those pensions passed in 2006, a mandated $700 million cost they may not now be able to afford. Craig called it an “election year ploy” wherein the state government “put a mandate on themselves they now can’t afford.”
Here is the full county press release:
County Executive Craig Outlines FY 10 Budget Concerns
Cost saving measures implemented
(Bel Air, MD) – – Harford County Executive David R. Craig has announced some cost saving measures to help Harford County Government deal with lower revenue projections for FY 10. County Executive Craig addressed his cabinet and some local officials regarding the budget reductions during a news conference today.
“The past several months have seen a great deal of volatility in revenues and revenue projections,” remarked County Executive Craig. “The State of Maryland has eliminated 90% of our Highway User Revenue; income tax receipts from the state are down by as much as 13 ½%, which means a potential drop of nearly $8 million in revenue to Harford County. Additionally we have learned that property tax assessments for approximately one-third ofthe county will go down an average of 16%,” Craig stated.
“Some people would look at this as gloom and doom, for me however this is the fourth time I have been asked to lead government through a down turn in the economy – twice as Mayor of Havre de Grace and twice as County Executive,” the county executive remarked. “As long as we plan wisely and use balance in our approach, we will get through these difficult times successfully,” Craig stated.
In September of 2009 County Executive Craig began preparations of the FY 11 budget by meeting with his cabinet as well as various agency and department heads and suggested they submit a “flat” budget with no increase in expenditures for the next fiscal year. Since then, the county executive modified that request and directed that a 5% reduction be implemented in each agency and department’s budget for FY 11. Additionally, due to declining revenue projections from the Department of Treasury, County Executive Craig further ordered all departments of Harford County Government to hold back 5% of their budget expenditures for the current fiscal year.
Throughout the months of October and November 2009, County Executive Craig conducted a series of “Town Hall” meetings with county employees to gain input and recommendations to improve operations and efficiency in government. One recommendation which has been adopted is a “buy out” for those county employees who are currently eligibleto retire – an action which could affect as much as 25% of the county’s workforce.
Those personnel who are eligible to retire and who file by March 12 of this year, will receive a one-time 100% return on unused sick leave. Currently county employees are eligible for a 50% return on unused sick leave.
As employees take advantage of this offer, positions will be consolidated which could save the county millions of dollars in the long-term. Similar buy-outs from allied agencies could result in even larger savings. The retirement buy out is pending upon funding approval by the Harford County Council.
Additionally, Harford County Government employees have taken three of five furlough days previously scheduled for FY 10. At this time no additional furlough days are anticipated above the five days.
With respect to the 2010 Maryland General Assembly Session, County Executive Craig advised there are two major issues he will be monitoring. First, as president of the Maryland Association of County’s (MACO) he will be working to adjust the requirement and appeals process for county governments to meet “Maintenance of Effort” requirements for local Boards of Education.
Over the years many counties, including Harford have met or exceeded the requirement of Maintenance of Effort for local school systems. However, this past year three counties could not – Montgomery, Prince George’s and Wicomico. These three political subdivisions appealed the current requirement to meet Maintenance of Effort to the State Board of Education, but were denied.
Despite the fact that the county executive’s and administration of these jurisdictions were supported by their local boards of education in their request for a waiver to meet Maintenance of Effort, they were rejected in their request. Thus the appeals process failed.
“I strongly support correcting this process to allow counties more flexibility inmeeting the Maintenance of Effort during these challenging economic times,” stated County Executive Craig.
The second issue of interest to Harford County is the matter of teacher pensions. Although some suggest teachers pensions should be pushed down to county governments, County Executive Craig recommends the legislature carefully examine an action they took four years ago with passage of HB 1737, which enhanced the pension system and subsequently resulted in a $700 million hole in the state budget.
“The state must handle their budget deficit without balancing the budget on the back of local or county government,” Craig stated. “We are all in this together and passing on budget issues to local or county government does not solve the problem, it just redistributes the issue,” County Executive Craig remarked.
Craig will most certainly “get through this”, but many county employees and taxpayers may not.
Craig must have been completely oblivious to economic conditions when he granted a 9% increase in pay to most county employees not so long ago. He only needed to read the front page of the Wall Street Journal to see that we were headed into (but, really already in) a serious recession.
Craig should take responsibility for his irresponsible “Billion dollar budget” and the 9% increase in pay as contributors to the financial woes of today. Did he really do county employees a service with that pay increase? Partially due to that increase, he had to issue furlough days and now waste county funds on these buyouts. The county employees and unions should actually be furious at Craig for being so irresponsible with taxpayer dollars.
The payoff on these buyouts is minor at best. This tactic is akin to a person taking a payday loan at scalper prices on Super Bowl Sunday. At its core, this maneuver is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars and could have been avoided by straight layoffs and proper budgeting in Craig’s previous budgets. Make no mistake, layoffs will prove necesary whether these buyouts occur or not. Due to the time value of money, the layoffs to come will be more severe than the layoffs that should have been issued last year.
Another way of looking at these buyouts is Craig’s asmission of total and complete failure of proper budgetary planning by the county government. This is the last resort folks. Beyond this remains only large scale layoffs and the possible elination of entire county government departments (maybe not such a bad idea, but that kind of thing should be planned and not thrust upon the people by elected officials with no remaining choices).
Craig and every member of the county council who voted for his first 4 budgets should be booted from office. You can’t leave out Boniface and the rest who went along with this nonsense. Sure they whined and complained, but in the end Boniface and the rest went along with the Billion dollar budget and the subsequent 9% increase.
Craig, Bob Thomas, his other campaign staffers and relatives who are now on the county payroll will obviously spin this in another direction. The bottom line: For someone who portrays himself as a convservative, Craig has really dropped the ball.
This goes to show why a middle school administrator should not be entrusted with hundreds of millions of dolllars in responsibility. We need someone with business sense and experience to lead this county. We have a Republican majority among our elected officials in Harford, yet we are still in this position. I don’t care if it is a Democrat, Republican (Though not Steve Wright – We don’t want to replace the incompetent with, to put in kindly, the overly litigious and ethically challenged), or Independent.
It might be interesting to note here that Democrat Maryann Lisanti was one of the most vocal opponents of Craig’s budget largesse.
Folks need to wake up and take care of business in Harford County.
This nonsense, combined with the rampant anit-incumbant sentiment that has permeated voters consciences across the nation, will allow challengers to defeat almost any incumbent in the county. Get ready to witness Republican seats taken over by Democrats and yes, even independents. Nov. 2010 will be a glorious wake-up call for elected officials of all kinds.
It is about time.
Al J Thong says
Skeptical- I couldn’t agree more. Craig has got to go but what I’m looking for is an independant thinker and I don’t really care about their party affiliation. Craig sold us out to the unions, special interests and his entourage of county paid family members, friends and political hacks. Like the good folks of Massachusetts, I want the county executive’s chair to be the people’s seat sat in by an independant thinker.
frankly speaking says
The current crisis in the county’s budget can be traced to the national downturn in the economy and not in the pay raise that county. employees received in 2008. In 2009 county employees received furloughs, and increses in medical and pension payments, and no raises were given. Let me point out that these cuts were borne by county employees, not teachers or sheriff department employees.
your doom and gloom scenario that entire departments would have to be abolished is just not in the cards. the county workforce is 200 employees less today than it was 2 years ago. Most departments have not hired any new employees, except for some specialty areas. We are expecting more furloughs this year and increased out of pocket costs for employees. the buyout can work for those employees that would be in retirement in the next 2 years, and would perhaps push some to accelerate their decision to retire now as oppossed to waiting a year or two. It makes sense since these eligible employees are at the top of their payscale and would save the county a significant amount of money.
The county executive has proven to be a good manager and prudent with the taxpayers money. I expect him to keep his priorities straight and do the best he can for our county and balance the budget amongst all departments.
Which one of Craig’s 5 or 6 spokespersons/aides/public relations/relatives are you? Your blind idolization of Craig is illogical so you must be beholden to him because he created a job for you. To say he is “prudent with the taxpayers money” means you have no idea what the defintion of prudent is. Please explain how the 9% across the board salary increases do not affect what is happening now. Please explain how the creation of jobs for his family members does not affect the budget now. Please explain how having layers of duplicity does not have an effect on the budget. Please explain where you will be working when the people speak and vote him out of office.
Unselfish Patriot says
Welcome back “Mr. Al”! I’ve missed your words of wisdom here in The Dagger. I will contribute more later, but for now…it’s Happy Hour!
What would be wrong with eliminating some county departments?
frankly speaking says
which departments too cut?
public works…snow removal & maintain county infrastructure.
State’s Attorney Office…you hire your own attorney to prosecute the guy who stole from you.
Permits and Inspections….let your contractor monitor his own work according to his own code..that worked well with Wall Street.
The examples why depts are there are many and each dept has a county, state or federal function. In some cases state law mandates that the county handle state’s responsabilites such as prison and inmates.
There are county laws that the county has to administer such the the Livability Code, Electrical Code. Waste, Recycling and other Environmental laws are mandated by the state and funded from county funds.
Some departments can be consolidated and functions streamlined, but that only really means less bosses because as we know the real work is done by front line staff and many positions require specialized certification due to….guess…….federal and state mandates.
frankly: What would be wrong with less bosses? Isn’t that the problem in a nutshell? Too many chiefs? Get rid of some of the top heavy big whigs who don’t do a thing except collect their paycheck and then the working grunts won’t have to be furloughed. That would certainly take a big chunk from the budget deficit.
JUST THINK before you vote.I am to the point that I don’t know how poeple keep said lets layoff why not reduce paid. The poeple that get layoff the the more homes poeple lose less money spend at local shops. i just want everyone to think there are other whys if evryone would think.
I guess it is easy for David Craig to be out of touch with the recession, considering he is pulling executive pay, HCPS retirement AND Delegate retirement. He is triple dipping, what does he care about furloughing people or riding on the backs of taxpayers? He will get the services he wants off of Havre de Grace taxpayers backs! What does he care if your services aren’t available in Edgewood or North Harford? He has his friends and family in needless jobs in the county. Look around Havre de Grace you will see him and his posse during the day when they should be earning those taxpayer dollars! Driving county vehicles. I would love a cushy county job making the big bucks that have the hours they keep! But if that requires kissing Craigs patoot NO THANKS!
frankly speaking says
BRENDA-the fact that Craig pulls one, two or three pensions is no relevant to the county budget. He was elected by the voters to be the county executive. The county hires qualified people to do the needed jobs and this does not preclude anyone, even if somehow related to the county executive from working for the county as long as they were hired on their own merits.
The county’s budget comes from the tax payer, not from Havre de Grace taxpayes only!!!.
The county has become more efficient and is responsible with the taxpayers money, one can argue that things can be better managed. There is always room for efficiency and better management, but the essential resonsabilities of the county are mandated by law and the county must provide them.
Ms. Pat McGrady says
Please bring your ideas and comments to the budget input hearings this week- the two sites are Edgewood High on Monday, 1/25/ at 6:00pm and the second will be on Tues., 1/26/, at CMW high at 6:00pm. The purposes of the meetings are to have input about the budget and expenses paid for by Harford citizens and our taxes. As you all know, over 175 homes were up for auction these past weeks listed in the local papers. The county budget is funded by the property taxes and fees charged by the county. What programs and areas would most benefit from either more money or less money? The number of un-employed and homeless is growing faster than kids grow out of sneakers. The meeting is to share solutions and ideas, wants, needs and directions for the exec. to incorporate into the county 2011 budget and beyond. We in Harford county sit in an ideal spot for growth and development, equi-distant from Phila. and Washington DC. If we are careful in our planning, we will not become a replica of Los Angeles, ( w/t the earthquakes) and will manage to have churches, homes, schools, jobs and a place for all of us. Do you, as a citizen want money you pay for property taxes to be spent on skateboard parks or senior centers? Do you want more fees on home building and construction or used for astro- turf on athletic fields? Do you want your money spent on teen/youth programs or on the detention center? Do you want more building inspectors or more teachers, aides, cafeteria workers or landscapers? The meetings are open to the public…the public funds the budget, seems to me the input would be both enlightening and helpful to our elected officials. Please plan to attend and share your wisdom with our elected officials. Each one will be allowed to speak for 3 minutes to share one’s ideas and wisdom, and none of us is as smart as all of us. Hope to see you there. Ms. Pat McGrady
Truth Squad says
Not sure where you are getting your so called facts. Obviously you have a very personal axe to grind with David Craig. Here are some facts you should know before you talk more of what you do not know.
1) David Craig pulls only one pension and that is from his over 30 years in the school system.
2) The so called 9% pay raise came with a few strings for employees that is saving the county and taxpayers millions in the long term….
County employees now pay more towards their health insurance, the county has been slowly reducing its percentage of contribution to employee health insurance costs. This has saved millions now and into the future since health care costs continue to skyrocket every year. Talk about a multiplying factor.
County employees no longer receive automatic “Steps” which typically ranged around 3% as part of any annual pay raise. Craig instituted a new pay plan that removed automatic steps. Employees now have to earn a merit increase, it is not automatic as it was in the past. Again, the cost savings here continue to appreciate over time.
Craig also changed the retirement Health Care benefit rules so that employees must work longer for Harford County Government to qualify for this benefit. This significantly reduced the county’s long term benefit liability which it must pay a portion of every year. The savings here saved well over a million dollars the first year.
These were the three very large cost savings changes that were made when the 9% pay plan went through. Humm….let’s see…a 9% market adjustment and in return he was able to pass the above pay plan reforms. If you do the simple math, the 9% was well worth the price.
You may also find it an interesting fact that the County workforce is smaller than when Craig took over as County Executive.
So, Brenda, don’t let your personal dislike for Craig blind you from cold hard facts.
As far as the spending some folks are taking issue with. Much of Craig’s “spending” was to improve public infrastructure which actually drives any community’s economic engine. No water, no commercial growth = no jobs, Overcrowded Schools = Less quality of life, no parks and rec. facilites, again = quality of life, no quality of life, no location of companies, and again, no jobs. Not to mention these needed infrastructure improvements have helped Harford ensure that we receive the maximum benefit from the jobs relocating to APG because of BRAC. UGH!!! Some folks here just have very narrow blinders on.
Truth Squad: Yes, the workforce is smaller because Craig terminated 37 county positions while creating several for his friends and family members. So yes, technically, there are fewer in the workforce but at what price? Let’s see, we have one suicide, families and careers wrecked, but hey, that workforce is lower.
Obviously you are misinformed! Go to http://www.sra.state.md.us/pdf/legislative_pension_plan.pdf there you can see the legislative pension plan that David Craig is collecting under. Remember when you run for political office you are required to disclose this information. I do not have a personal grudge against David Craig, I just personally think he is out of touch with the “common” folk, those who are struggling each day to make ends meet. He doesn’t have to worry with those struggles. And because he lives in an incorporated city that covers the services he needs why is he concerned with those who live in Harford County? He gets his snow removal, water, police etc from the City of Havre de Grace, he doesn’t have to rely on Harford County for those same services. I am not saying that the raises he gave weren’t deserved, but were they fiscally responsible in light of the economy? Everyone could have predicted when he gave them that the economy wasn’t going to turn around over night. Now there is furloughing and reduction in services provided. Is it a transparent government when he hires his sister in law and makes a deal with Havre de Grace to make sure she got her pension and now will get one from Harford County? Neoptism at its finest! Do we really need all the friends he hired on the county payroll?? These actions show that backscratching is more important than hiring qualified persons through a hiring process.
Brenda, you are right. Truth Squad is accusing you of having an ax to grind with Craig when all you are doing is pointing out the obvious, which he is blinded to. I have never in my life seen such nepotism. Kind of reminds you of the Verizon Family and Friends Plan, doesn’t it? There is no point in sparring with Truth Squad, he is oblivious to the facts and seeing only what he wants to see. Must be on Craig’s payroll.
frankly speaking says
Brenda-So the county executive can’t collect on a pension that he earned because that costs the harford county govt $$$? I don’t undertand your logic!!!.
Craig can hire anyone he wants as his secretary, preferably someone he trusts and knows would not kiss and tell. As far as any other positions within the county most he brought in are appointted positions which mean that when he leaves, his staff has to resign their posts. The new county executive would in effect either rehire Craig’s staff or appoint its own staff to head the county departments.
I don’t know how any of your points add to the county’s budget woes.. Maybe you are mad because he didn’t hire you or your family members.
So Craig wants someone who won’t “kiss and tell”. Poor choice of words, by the way. Um, whatever happened to transparency in government? Oh, just hire your sister-in-law who will hide the truth from everyone.
Are you implying County Executive David Craig did have or is having an affair with his secretary?
Wow, nepotism and incest!
Well I guess since one of his buddies has announced she is leaving Harford County Government and he isn’t replacing her that rather proves how unnecessary these appointments were!