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December 22, 2010

Teacher pension costs to be sent to schools?

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has been talking a lot about the cost of teacher pensions lately. As he prepares to take over as the president of the Maryland Association of County's, Ulman has consistently spoken out against any shift of educator retirement costs from the state to local governments.

But what if he can't get the General Assembly to go along? This is a debate that has been simmering for years, and got especially hot last year as the Senate passed a plan that would shift more than $300 million in liabilities to the counties within the next several years. The measure died in negotiations with the House, but could be back.

If lawmakers go through with it, Larry Carson reports that Ulman would like to send the bill directly to the county school board. He argues they're the ones that decide how much teachers will be paid.

An excerpt from Larry's Political Notebook is below, but click through to read the whole thing.

"A state commission headed by former House Speaker Casper R. Taylor recommended a shift of some teacher pension costs after a meeting in Annapolis on Monday. The commission also suggested requiring local school boards to pay those costs as Ulman advocated, according to Andrea Mansfield, associate director of the Maryland Association of Counties.

That would benefit Ulman and other local government leaders because of the way Maryland pays for education, which typically consumes half or more of local revenues. Local governments levy taxes and then allocate money for schools, but school boards decide how exactly to spend it.

If pension costs are borne directly by school boards, those officials would have to wrestle with how to pay the bills, removing that burden from elected county executives and Baltimore's mayor. Instead, Ulman agreed that school board members would likely ask for more money from his administration, but he'd rather face that fight, he said.

"'It would pose a political challenge,' Ulman said, 'but I'm much more able to handle that.'"

Posted by Andy Rosen at 6:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: In The Counties


Obviously this cost will be passed to parents. But our taxes will not go down when it happens.

This may actually be a good thing. The state foists pensions onto the counties. The counties say, too bad, we have no money. Pensions go bye-bye, like they should have years ago since the whole thing is antiquated.

Must read

Dont forget, by law the Md school budget must go up each year, even if the money isnt available. I dont see anything wrong with the state printing money even if there is nothing to back it up. The Federal Govt does it.

Teachers enter a career that has limited earnings potential but traditionally carries a fine benefits package. Hiring and retaining the best means a good pension at the end of the career. However, it does make sense for local boards to consider long-term pension costs when brokering short-term contracts...usually only of 1-2 years' duration. I totally support good benefits and pensions for educators, but times have changed, and the calculus going forward needs to include new variables.

I agree with Mr. Ulman. For too long school systems have recklessly hired teachers because they knew they would not have to bear the burden of paying for the pensions, health benefits, etc for retirees. Make them be more efficient and shift the costs of pensions to the school boards.


Thanks for exposing the personal conflict that some legislators have re pension/benefits.

What about looking into those who have public sector jobs who continue to get full pay and benefits while doing legislative work full time during the session. Also, what about the many other times of the year when they are involved with political and/or legislative engagements????? How is that time accounted for?????

You are a gem who continues to amaze me with your investigative work. Thanks and Stay the course.

This is Ken Ulman for Governor, trying to keep his sh*t from stinking. Three things are wrong with this plan.

1. You can't pass the pension fund off to a body that has no taxation power and is therefore completely reliant on state and local money to run.

2. Not every school board is under home rule. A number of boards (half of Baltimore City and all of the County) are appointed by the State, bypassing the counties.

3. This still does nothing to actually ease the budget liability for taxpayers. Whether we pay the state, the county, or get a local school board tax like PA, we're going to have to pay someone the same amount of money as before.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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