Up to 2000 employees will be offered an opportunity to retire early under a plan approved by the Baltimore County Council Monday night.
The council unanimously approved the bill which would provide up to three years credit toward an employee's retirement benefit.
County Adminstrative Officer Fred Homan said last week that it is hoped that up to 200 employees will take advantage of the program which could save the county as much as $15 million.
If not, officials, hinted that furloughs and layoffs could be the next option. The county last laid off employees during the economic downturn in the early 1990s.
County employees can begin appyling for the early retirement between Oct. 30 and Dec. 30. Most employees who receive approval to retire early would have to leave their jobs by Feb. 29 though some county employees could remain on the payroll through June 30.
Final decisions on each position will be made by Homan.
Employees not eligible for the voluntary retirement include:
- Police officers of the rank lieutenant or below
- Fire department employees of the rank captain or below
- Some classes of deputy sheriffs
- Some classes of 911 employees
- Some classes of corrections officers
- Public health nurses
- Social workers
- Appointed department heads
Homan said that only employees who are in positions that can be eliminated will be approved for the early retirement program.
Also at the meeting:
• The council approved a bill unanimously that grants binding arbitration rights to a third union representing county employees.
John Ripley, president of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, said his members were dissatisfied with the bill because it does not go into effect until 2014 and is different from rights granted to the police and fire unions under similar agreements. The union represents about 1,600 county employees.
The law affects nearly 3,000 employees including sheriff's deputies and correctional officers and other county employees. It gives the union the right to binding arbitration on issues of wages and pension benefits but not terms and conditions of employment—rights the fire and police unions have.
County officials said they opposed such language because it would give arbiters power over management decisions.
The council approved an amendment sponsored by Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr. that gives the union the right to seek arbitration on terms and conditions of employment but the decisions would not be binding.
Finally, the council approved an amendment sponsored by Councilwoman Vicki Almond and Councilman David Marks, Democrat and Republican respectively, that requires the arbiter to look at salary and pension benefits of comparable Maryland jurisdictions. The bill, as proposed, contained language requiring those items be compared to jurisdictions contiguous with Baltimore County.
• A bill allowing a maximum of three 300-square-foot electronic signs to be mounted on the walls or roof of a building of at least 150,000 square-feet in size or a parking facility in the core of Towson as long as that building is in conjunction with a state-operated facility.
Before the vote, Councilman David Marks, the bill's sponsor, submitted a largely technical amendment to narrow the bill's scope so that it only applies to state facilities and large office buildings, not county facilities, which are already exempt from zoning rules.
"I'm not a fan of proliferation of signage every where but quite frankly when you look at projects like Towson City Center and some of the other buildings in Towson, they're the only game in town," Marks said.
The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations opposed the bill. In a letter sent to the council, the group said it prefers the current system that requires developers to apply for a variance, which allows for community input on individual requests.
"Why change county zoning regulations to apply to one project?" said Ed Kilcullen, a Towson Manor Village resident and chair of the GTCCA's government relations committee.
Towson Patch editor Tyler Waldman contributed to this story.
This article has been updated to correct the total number of county employees affected by the binding arbitration bill—about 3,000.