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Plan will cost the county $520K in fiscal 2013

By AMANDA SCOTT

Staff writer

Eighteen eligible county employees will have retired by the end of June after taking advantage of a voluntary retirement incentive plan costing the county an estimated $520,000 in the current fiscal year.

The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the $520,000 budget adjustment in fiscal 2013 for the county’s voluntary retirement incentive plan. As of Tuesday’s commissioners meeting, Director of Finance and Budget Tim Hayden said there have been 18 county employees who have signed up for the plan out of the 44 total eligible.

Eligibility for the incentive was determined by enrollment in the Calvert County Employees Retirement Plan, also known as the defined benefit pension plan.

Hayden said staff has a “strong estimate” of the total cost to the county, but it is an estimate because those eligible employees “are allowed to withdraw right up until the last minute ... June 30.”

“... So, there is that uncertainty,” Hayden said, but explained that if any of the employees change their minds, the unspent money would remain in the fund balance — the source for funding the incentive for the 18 employees.

Five of the 18 eligible employees have already retired, Hayden said, and the remaining 13 have retirement dates set for the end of June.

When staff first approached the commissioners about the plan in January, staff said 44 county employees who are eligible for retirement between April 1 and June 30 were now eligible for a voluntary retirement incentive from the county on a first-come, first-serve basis. At that January meeting with the commissioners, staff proposed that those eligible receive $1,000 per whole year of service for full-time employees and $500 per whole year of service for part-time employees — which could cost the county a one-time incentive payment of up to $1.24 million.

During that meeting, Hayden told the commissioners the voluntary retirement incentive would not only reduce the county’s pension expenses, but would also decrease the county staff count.

However, Hayden said Tuesday decreasing staff count hasn’t been as easy as initially thought — something Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) predicted in January.

“Trying not to replace the individuals has proven impossible in many cases,” Hayden said. “I think I figured out that the reason is because many of the positions are unique.”

A staff memo states, “More personnel were replaced than anticipated and this lowered the estimated savings amount. We continue discussing some positions to determine the need.”

Shaw said she was “very skeptical about this ... because I really was concerned about the amount of savings we would generate versus the amount of institutional knowledge that we would lose.

“... We are losing an incredible amount of institutional knowledge all at once. ... Are there other people who can step up? I’m sure there are, but there’s value in money, and there’s also value in intangible ways.”

In other business, the commissioners:

• Unanimously approved to close the public record following a public hearing, in which no one from the public spoke, regarding the conveyance of about 7,132 square feet of land in Huntingtown at the southernmost intersection of Route 524 and Route 2/4 to the Maryland State Highway Administration for improvements to the intersection. The commissioners also unanimously approved to place the issue on a future agenda for the board’s action;

• Unanimously approved to submit the county’s fiscal 2014 Program Open Space Annual Program to the Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of Planning;

• Accepted a $15,365 grant award check from Cove Point Natural Heritage Trust to support a small portion of the watershed planner’s salary to lead water sampling efforts; contracted services with the University of Maryland Chesapeake Biological Lab for water quality testing and analysis; the purchase of four field monitors to measure temperature, pH and conductivity; various supplies; and an intern for two months who will work with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the county’s GIS data to validate the federally mandated Watershed Implementation Plan nutrient loads;

• Presented Calvert Library Director Patricia Hofmann with a proclamation honoring her retirement after a 28-year career with Calvert Library;

• Presented Rebecca “Becky” Weems with a proclamation honoring her retirement after more than 29 years of service with the Department of Public Safety Control Center Division.

ascott@somdnews.com