- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
My name is Thomas Phelps. I am the president of the Calvert County Fraternal Order of Police, and, as such, I represent the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office deputies who are members.
I was hired as a Calvert County deputy in 2001, fulfilling a lifelong dream to serve the citizens of the place I am proud to call home, as do my brothers and sisters at the sheriff’s office. When hired, as is true with all deputies, I was given a pay scale indicating merit steps for the first 19 years of employment. This has turned out to be a false promise. The personnel code states that employees shall receive a merit step each year with a satisfactory performance evaluation. The only other condition set forth is subject to the availability of funds.
A merit step is not a pay raise; it is earned through longevity and a satisfactory job performance. Calvert County recently received another triple A bond rating and has been cited as the 13th wealthiest county in the nation. I understand being careful with fiscal matters, but I find it hard to believe there is no money to give the employees of Calvert County an earned merit step increase.
It is no secret that the United States is having difficult financial times, and if Calvert County were short on funds, I would not be writing this letter. However, in each of the past two years, there has been a more than $6 million surplus at the end of each budget year. The county continues to spend on projects that would not be funded if we were truly short of money.
The county has chosen to spend millions of dollars to renovate a former grocery store into a library. Consideration is being given to an $800,000 project to water grass at a local golf course. A skate park was just renovated at a cost of thousands of dollars. These are just a few examples of how our county is spending money.
For five years, the county has foregone merit steps for all employees. The excuse given is that there is no money. If this is truly the case, then where did the money come from for the aforementioned projects?
By my calculations, a merit step for deputies for one year would cost the county around $280,000. Is building a library so a citizen has to drive fewer miles worth forgoing steps for your employees? Is watering grass at a local golf course worth forgoing steps for your employees? Is having a renovated skate park worth forgoing steps for your county employees?
My family, and the families of all our deputies, is living on the same income we were receiving five years ago, yet gasoline alone has doubled. Health care costs continue to rise. Groceries and the costs of daily life get higher every day. Many deputies must work secondary employment in order to make ends meet. This, along with working night shifts, weekends and holidays, means we spend many hours away from our families. When we chose this career path, we knew we wouldn’t be rich and it would require long hours and time away from our families. However, we did believe we would be compensated according to the agreement we signed when we were hired.
Morale among deputies, teachers and county government employees is low. These are the very people that allow the commissioners to speak about how great our county is and the reason many citizens choose to live in Calvert County. The county administrator just sent out an email to all county employees praising us for the work we do and for making Calvert County the best place on earth. Even with the low morale, this email makes it evident that we continue to uphold our part of the contract we signed when we were hired. It is time Calvert County upheld its end of agreement that was made to its employees when they were hired. You cannot continue to balance a budget on the backs of employees.
I ask all citizens to email, call or write a letter to the board of county commissioners, as these are the people who we all voted in to represent the county employees and citizens. I respectfully implore the county commissioners to approve a merit step for the 2012-2013 budget and to develop a plan for restoring all the back steps earned by and owed to county employees.
Thomas Phelps, Prince Frederick
The writer is the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 109.