Baltimore City Announces Mayor’s Scholars Program

On Wednesday, December 13th Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh joined Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) President and CEO Dr. Gordon F. May and Baltimore City Public Schools’ CEO Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises to launch the Mayor’s Scholars Program. In August, Mayor Pugh announced free tuition at Baltimore City Community College for all 2018 seniors graduating from public schools.

According to a press release,

The Mayor’s Scholars Program is established on the basis of providing more accessible higher education. When cost barriers are eliminated, youth are more likely to pursue and obtain a degree and achieve meaningful, competitive employment. This, in turn, leads to greater economic opportunity, which ultimately breaks the cycle of poverty and violence.

“Every student should know that cost does not have to be a barrier when they choose better for themselves, and it starts with coordination among public schools and anchor institutions to make college and financial aid accessible, once and for all,” said Mayor Pugh.

The Mayor’s Scholars Program covers tuition for Associate’s Degree and Certified Job Training Programs, giving Baltimore City graduating seniors a clear path to success.

Read the full press release for more information.

#MACoCon Panel Showcases Successful County Collaborations

At the 2017 MACo Winter Conference general session “We’ve Got Your Back: Counties Collaborate” attendees learned about how counties are leveraging intergovernmental and private sector partnerships to achieve the best results for county residents.

The panelists discussed a range of challenges counties grapple with — responding to natural disasters, ensuring public safety, maximizing purchasing power and investments — and the ways counties can use partnerships to overcome those challenges.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman kicked off the panel with a presentation on the recovery efforts after the 2016 Ellicott City flood. He noted that neighboring counties, state agencies, and responders from across the country were crucial in the successful response and recovery to the flood. Partners sent people to help with operational support, including an Incident Management Team from Pennsylvania as Maryland did not have such a team. They also sent equipment such as VAT trucks from Anne Arundel County, SHA trucks, and a helicopter. County Executive Kittleman stressed the importance of a united front while working together and of patience throughout the long-term process of recovery. He concluded sharing that 96% percent of business are back up and running 16 months after the flood — exceeding SBA’s estimate that only 20-30% of businesses would return.

Jim Alfree, Assistant Chief in Queen Anne’s County’s Department of Emergency Services presented on a 911 call overflow partnership between Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline, Queen Anne’s, and Kent counties. Prior to the partnership if you called 911 and the line was busy, you would get a busy signal until the line opened. He likened it to “playing Russian Roulette until you can get through to 911”. To fix this they developed a call flow. When one county 911 center is being inundated by calls, instead of receiving a busy signal the call will be sent to one of the neighboring county call centers. The counties developed a PSA and their public information officers helped with the campaign to get the message out.

Debbie Groat, Regional Purchasing Coordinator for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council presented on the benefits of aggregating county purchases to generate better prices and better services. Generally the greater the volume of purchases the greater the benefits. She noted that 60% of contracts that counties use are the same and that cooperative purchasing can save counties 3-15%. Groat explained the Baltimore Regional Cooperative Purchasing Committee’s lead buyer model which helps member counties piggy back on lead buyers contract. And how the committee provides a platform for sharing information on standard cooperative language and best practices that counties can use.

From left to right: County Executive Kittleman, Jim Alfree, Debbie Groat, Chris Dellinger, Joseph Mason
From left to right: County Executive Kittleman, Jim Alfree, Debbie Groat, Chris Dellinger, Joseph Mason

Chris Dellinger, Public Sector Solutions Energy & Sustainability Services for Schneider Electric, spoke about a public-private-partnership between Schneider Electric and Montgomery County to develop a microgrid to protect critical departments in the face of environmental disasters power outages. This partnership arose from a snow storm that hit Montgomery County and significantly knocked out power across the jurisdiction. The microgrids help ensure the county can continue to provide critical services in the face of such storms. The microgrid can power important systems and maintain functionality of a building while the electric grid is down and being worked on. Currently the Montgomery County Correctional Facility and Public Safety Headquarters now have microgrids.

Last but not least, Joseph Mason, Senior Vice President for Davenport & Company gave an overview of the MACo Pooled OPEB Investment Trust Fund. The OPEB trust helps local governments invest current funds toward future obligations for retiree health insurance. By pooling money together counties can reduce overhead and legal costs, as well as gain access to better investments.

This session was moderated by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and held on Thursday, December 7. The MACo Winter Conference was held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was “The Power of Partnership.”

Professing Importance of Pitching & Patching Pensions At #MACoCon

On Wednesday, December 6 at the MACo Winter Conference, county administrators, budgets officers, government relations officials and a number of other government professionals dug deep into the challenges of executing successful pension plans in light of funding difficulties and a workforce with evolving priorities.img_0603

Public pensions can provide a reliable and robust benefit for government employees. At the same time, some public pension systems are facing funding difficulties. To address these difficulties, organizations look to reduced payment packages for new hires, delays to employee eligibility, and improving investment income. For county governments who are members of the Maryland Pension System and those who offer their own pension plan, there are also challenges in marketing the merits of this traditional form of benefit to a millennial and generation Z workforce who are looking for portable investments such as 401(k)s.

Kristopher E. Seets, FSA, EA, Actuary, Bolton Partners, Inc. provided a very robust and detailed look into the future of pension plans and pros and cons of defined benefit plans versus defined contribution plans. Robert Goff, Retirement Benefits Manager for Montgomery County Employee Retirement Plans discussed his county’s plans, and Jim Harkins, Trustee for the Maryland State Retirement & Pension System discussed the details of the State’s system.

During the question and answer portion, discussion centered around Anne Arundel’s proposal to offer its employees the option to participate in a defined contribution plan – offering employees faster vesting with less risk to the County than its existing Employee Retirement Plan.

The Honorable Barry Glassman, Harford County Executive moderated the session.

Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services: A Collaborative Approach

All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. As volunteer fire companies continue to evolve, it is critical for local governments to strengthen their relationships with local volunteer firefighters.

From Left to Right: Commissioner Levengood, Chip Jewell, Michael Faust, Tom Owens, Richard DeVore

During the 2017 MACo Winter Conference panel “Together We Respond: A Collaborative Approach to Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services” attendees learned how Maryland counties are collaborating with volunteer fire companies to protect lives, property, and the environment.

Clarence “Chip” Jewell, Director/Deputy Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services, discussed the evolution of the fire service in Maryland. Mr. Jewell also provided data on the cost savings for jurisdictions that are able to hire volunteer firefighters.

Michael Faust, Second Vice President, Maryland State Firemen’s Association, discussed the fire service from a state perspective, including some of the opportunities and challenges related to firefighters in Maryland. Mr. Faust also highlighted grant opportunities for the recruitment and retention of firefighters.

Richard Devore, Director, Emergency Services, Allegany County, discussed the evolution of the fire service in Allegany County. He also described some of the challenges and obstacles counties face when recruiting firefighters. Mr. Devore also talked about how Allegany County has recently started the process of evolving into combination service. Finally, he discussed challenges unique to rural jurisdictions in Maryland.

Tom Owens, EFO, Director/Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services, described the steps counties need to take in order to evolve from volunteer staffing to combination staffing. Chief Owens focused on the keys for making the transition in a way that forms a partnership, and the importance of assuaging potential concerns over what some could see as a potential coup.

The session was moderated by Caroline County Commissioner Wilbur Levengood and was held on Thursday, December 7. The MACo Winter Conference was December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Partnership.”

The 2018 County Government Salary Survey Is Here

The Maryland Association of Counties survey includes 126 county government positions, including elected, appointed, and management staff. 

Every year, Maryland Association of County Human Resources Officers provides information on salaries, benefits, and pensions of county government employees to MACo. The data shared forms the basis for the annual salary survey.

This year, a working group of Human Resources Directors from Carroll, Talbot, Queen Anne’s, Cecil counties have been reviewing the survey, suggesting updates and changes for future years.

In the future, some changes may include:

  • updates to titles to reflect the most commonly used position names and updates to position descriptions to more closely identify comparatives across counties
  • including “time-in-position” to strengthen the ability to make appropriate comparisons
  • removing positions that are only included by some counties and adding certain positions, especially in county parks and recreation category
  • making the survey format more user-friendly for comparisons across counties in the same region, or of the same demographics

If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Robin Eilenberg at MACo.

Find links below to each portion of the 2018 survey.

The Maryland Association of Human Resources Officers will be meeting to discuss the salary survey, and other topics at the MACo Winter Conference in Cambridge.

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference:

 

 

2018 Health Benefits Survey Covers Rx, Retirees, Reinsurance, and More

The annual Maryland Association of Counties Employee Health Benefits survey includes a variety of information about county government health plan coverage.

Here is an excerpt from Talbot County’s survey:

Screenshot 2017-11-30 13.29.20

For more information, see the full 2018 County Employee Health Benefits Survey.

Preview the 2018 Session “Big Picture”

A compilation of Issue Papers previews major fiscal and policy issues facing the General Assembly in the year ahead. This resource is a handy guide to the top issues that your legislators will be tackling in the year ahead – a great preparation document for county officials in advance of meetings with their local Delegations.

Developed by the Department of Legislative Services, the 2018 Issue Papers are an annual staple for the Annapolis policy-inclined population. They are also a great resource for county officials tracking specific issues, or interested in the state budget and other top-tier topics.

Here are a few direct links to hot topics that may interest counties:

Operating Budget

Transportation Trust Fund

Pension Issues

Capital Budget and Debt

Education Aid and Maintenance of Effort

School Construction

Health Care Reform

Broadband Access

Public Safety

Environmental Issues

Aid to Local Governments

9-1-1 Funding and Modernization

Gov. Hogan Proposes Alternative Paid Sick Leave Bill

Governor Hogan today announced that his administration will introduce “The Paid Leave Compromise Act of 2018” as emergency legislation on the first day of the 2018 Maryland General Assembly Session. The bill, phased in over three years, would apply to employers with 50 or more employees in 2018, employers with 40 or more employees in 2019, and employers with 25 or more employees in 2020.

Under the proposal, businesses would be required to provide employees with at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. The Governor’s bill includes a provision to allow businesses that can demonstrate a significant financial hardship to apply for a hardship waiver, exempting them from the paid sick leave requirement.

Governor Hogan also announced a companion bill, which would provide $100M in tax incentives to small businesses to offset the costs of providing employees with paid sick leave.

Earlier this year, Governor Hogan vetoed  HB 1 / SB 230, Labor and Employment – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, a bill that would have required employers with 15 or more full-time employees to provide workers with at least five days of sick and safe leave per year.

Hogan had proposed a rival bill that would require paid sick and safe leave for businesses with 50 or more employees and provide tax incentives to smaller businesses that provide leave. Democrats rejected that approach, noting that large businesses typically already provide employees with paid sick leave.

The bill was passed by veto-proof margins in both the Senate and House of Delegates. The General Assembly could override the Governor’s veto when it reconvenes next January.

HB 1 / SB 230 would have also required county governments to provide sick leave to all employees. While county governments generally provide generous benefits, at a much higher rate than the legislation would require, MACo opposed the legislation, raising concerns about the bill’s potential effects on provision of emergency and essential services and with the bill’s broad requirements for providing leave to part-time, seasonal, and contractual employees in the same manner as full-time employees.

Quick coverage from Hannah Marr on Twitter:

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more coverage, or contact Kevin Kinnally at MACo with any additional questions.

Useful Links

MACo Testimony on HB 1

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Governor Hogan Vetoes Sick Leave Bill

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland General Assembly Gives Final OK to Democrats’ Sick Leave Bill

Salisbury Files Lawsuit Against Volunteer Firefighters

The city of Salisbury has filed a lawsuit seeking the return of property and money from a group of volunteer firefighters who broke away. The dispute between the city and the firefighters cropped up in February when the volunteer firefighters at Salisbury’s Station 1 announced they would separate from the Salisbury Fire Department after the city refused to participate in formal mediation to settle disputes over station staffing.

The Daily Times of Salisbury reports:

The case filed in Wicomico County Circuit Court names Company 1 and 11 of its officers individually. It is the latest challenge in the firefighters’ efforts to start a new fire station and gain their own territory since they separated from the city in February.

The city is asking the court to grant a temporary restraining order to prohibit Company 1 from spending any public funds distributed by Wicomico County.

It also asks that Company 1 be compelled to produce an accounting of how it has spent any funds from public or charitable sources, and that an independent auditor be appointed to review records.

In March, the breakaway firefighters announced they were in the process of finding a new building with plans to take over a part of the county served by the city’s Station 1.

But a new fire service agreement between the city and county signed in April kept the boundaries of the Salisbury Fire Department’s coverage area intact.

All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. The evolution of volunteer fire companies presents both challenges and opportunities for county governments. At this year’s annual MACo Winter Conference, learn how Maryland counties are collaborating with volunteer fire companies to protect lives, property, and the environment.

Title: Together We Respond: A Collaborative Approach to Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services

Description: All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. As volunteer fire companies continue to evolve, it is critical for local governments to strengthen their relationships with local volunteer firefighters. This session will provide an overview of the challenges and best practices related to the volunteer fire service in Maryland. Speakers will discuss challenges in oversight and authority, recruiting and retaining volunteers, and funding for both volunteer companies and county governments.

Speakers:

  • Richard Devore, Director of Emergency Services, Allegany County
  • Tom Owens, EFO, Director/Chief, Division of Frederick County Fire & Rescue Services
  • Michael Faust, Second Vice President, Maryland State Fireman’s Association
  • Clarence “Chip” Jewell, Director/Deputy Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services

Moderator: The Honorable Johnny Mautz, Maryland House of Delegates

Date/Time: Thursday, December 7, 2017; 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “The Power of Partnership.”

Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference: