City Council Proposes Bill to Retain Service Workers Amid Contract Changes

If passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, Baltimore City could join the ranks of Montgomery County and other cities across the nation that would require certain incoming contractors to retain existing service workers for a set period of time when contracts are transitioning to new hands.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The bill requires an incoming contractor to retain the existing workforce for at least a 90-day transition period. Backers say it would protect thousands of city workers from losing jobs on short notice or being forced to reapply for their own positions.

Similar laws have been enacted in Montgomery County, California and at least 12 cities, including Philadelphia and New York and Washington.

Councilwoman Shannon Sneed, the bill’s sponsor, said the city’s service workers, including many who live in her East Baltimore district, shouldn’t have to worry about losing a job just because of a change in management. Those who are not retained after the 90-day period at least would have time to look for a new job, she said.

“We’re just saying before you come in and make changes, find out how it works,” said Sneed, who said she has strong support on the council for the bill. “We are pro-business. We ultimately want to keep people employed so these folks won’t be put out with a minute’s notice.”

The bill, which is up for a hearing before the council’s labor committee on Thursday, covers workers in security, janitorial, building maintenance and food service jobs at universities, convention centers, stadiums, residential and commercial buildings, industrial facilities, distribution centers and the casino. During the three-month transition period, workers can be fired only for cause, not just to be replaced.

A spokesman for Mayor Catherine Pugh said Friday that the mayor is withholding judgment on the proposal until after the council acts on the bill.

Read the The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Calvert County Commissioners Approve Public Schools Funding Plan

The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday approved a four-year public schools funding formula that will provide education appropriations of nearly $121 million in fiscal year (FY) 2018.

According to a press release,

The funding formula will be used to determine the amount of annual county appropriations to Calvert County Public Schools from FY 2018 through FY 2021. The measure must also be approved by the Calvert County Board of Education at its May 11 meeting before taking effect.

Three factors are included in the education funding formula. Starting with the prior year’s appropriations, funding will be based on 1) student enrollment increases; 2) changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI); and 3) an additional adjustment factor of 1 percent. A decline in student enrollment will not decrease funding and the CPI factor is capped at 3.5 percent.

The funding agreement has a new school adjustment to provide for up to $1 million in additional funds to offset operating costs for new schools. It also specifies that any unassigned public schools fund balance, or savings, in excess of $5 million will be contributed to the school system’s Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) trust fund. OPEB are benefits, other than pensions – such as health insurance – that employees receive as part of retirement benefits.

“We believe this is a generous funding formula that provides stability and predictability for county education appropriations,” said BOCC President Tom Hejl. “It will help ensure our school system remains among the top systems in Maryland.”

Additional one-time allocations for the next two fiscal years are included in the funding agreement. FY 2018 funding will include a $500,000 allocation and FY 2019 will include a $2 million allocation, each of which will be offset by reducing contributions for OPEB by the same amounts.

Public schools funding formula agreements have been a part of the county budget process since FY 2006. The last such agreement expired at the end of the 2012 fiscal year. The BOCC approved the FY 2018-2021education funding formula as part of the FY 2018 county budget process. The Commissioners’ Budget will be presented during a public hearing May 23 at 7 p.m. at Calvert Pines Senior Center in Prince Frederick.

Read the full press release for more information.

Pugh Backs Calls For Multimillion Dollar Investment in Affordable Housing in Baltimore

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh publicly backed advocates’ calls Saturday for her administration to issue $40 million in bonds annually for affordable housing and deconstruction projects — a move activists say would cut down on the problems of joblessness and homelessness.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun,

About 200 people rallied at Baltimore’s War Memorial Building in favor of the Baltimore Housing Roundtable’s “20/20 Campaign,” which calls for the city to dedicate $20 million in public bonds to an affordable-housing trust fund each year and $20 million in public bonds annually to take down vacant homes and fund projects that create green space.

Pugh told the crowd she is troubled by the levels of homelessness and unemployment she sees in Baltimore.

“We cannot afford to have people living on the streets of our city,” the mayor said. “Regardless of what your status is, everybody deserves a place to live. … The vision for 20/20 is one that I support. When we lift the least, we lift all of us.”

The advocacy group United Workers formed the Baltimore Housing Roundtable in 2013 by bringing together 25 organizations to address affordable-housing issues.

In addition to the $40 million in annual bonds, the group recommends the city establish a land bank to speed up the conversion of vacant properties to affordable housing, and give priority to ex-offenders for training and employment working on such projects. It advocated a process called “decontruction,” rather than demolition of vacant properties, to provide more jobs and recycle building materials.

Several City Council members attended the rally, including Zeke Cohen, Ryan Dorsey, Bill Henry, Kris Burnett, John Bullock, Shannon Sneed and Mary Pat Clarke.

Clarke said she believes there would be support on the City Council for the advocates’ proposals.

“It’s worth the investment,” she said. “We need affordable housing that stays affordable.”

Read the full article for more information.

Baltimore Schools Chief Proposes Up to 300 Layoffs to Balance District Budget

Baltimore city schools chief Sonja Santelises is proposing to lay off as many as 300 people, including teachers, to balance a $1.31 billion budget next year.

Santelises released her full budget plan for 2018 late Friday. It will go now to the city school board for approval.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun,

The layoffs include fewer than 75 teachers in core subjects such as math and English, school officials said. The job cuts would mean a third straight year of layoffs in the school district, though cuts in recent years did not include teachers. The layoff notices will be sent to affected teachers and administrators by June 1, officials said.

“While we had to make cuts, we kept the majority of the resources where the core of teaching and learning happens — in the classroom,” Santelises said in a statement.

The majority of layoffs will affect administrators and support staff, such as classroom assistants, special education aides, office secretaries, and central office employees. District administrators expect to further reduce the number of layoffs through routine retirements and departures that typically occur at the end of the school year.

“We are very hopeful and optimistic that there will be fewer than 300 individuals,” said Edie House-Foster, the school district spokeswoman.

The budget has been a matter of debate and worry among school district employees for months, ever since Santelises revealed in January that the school system faced a $130 million shortfall. She warned then that there could be 1,000 people laid off. But four months later, after state and city legislators pledged nearly $60 million to help narrow the budget gap, Santelises has scaled back the layoffs.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh praised the work of legislators to reduce the shortfall.

“That doesn’t make the proposed layoffs any less difficult, because these are real people and families,” she said in a statement Friday. “Funding quality education in Baltimore is a priority that we all share.”

The money from state and city legislators cut the deficit to about $70 million. Santelises closed the remaining shortfall with cuts of $30 million from schools and $10 million from the central office. She’s counting on $10 million in other savings next year, and plans to balance the budget by transferring $21 million from a reserve fund, considerably less than the $53 million diverted last year.

Her budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 represents a 2.6 percent decrease from this year.

Santelises’ budget decreases per-pupil funding for traditional schools by about $150, bringing the total to $5,416 for next year.

Charter schools are budgeted to see an increase of about $150, pushing the per-pupil total to $9,288. Charters receive more money because the central office doesn’t provide essential services and they must pay for their own administrators and building expenses.

The budget passed last year increased per-pupil amounts for traditional schools but decreased amounts for charters, both by more than $200.

Last year, the school system laid off about 100 people in a round of cuts that affected school police officers and central office administrators, but spared teachers and principals. The cuts saved about $14 million. Forty-four employees who lost their jobs worked in the central office.

In spring of 2015, administrators also laid off more than 100 people, bringing the district’s first job cuts in more than a decade. The district tapped into its rainy-day fund to avoid layoffs in 2014.

School board members are scheduled to vote May 23 on Santelises’ budget.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Baltimore City Schools CEO Warns of Massive Layoffs

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Signs Bill to Help Close Baltimore Schools Budget Gap

Read the full article from The Baltimore Sun

Schuh to Boost Anne Arundel School Spending As Part of Health Care Bailout

County Executive Steve Schuh plans to permanently increase funding for Anne Arundel County schools struggling health care fund, combined with a one-time $22.5 million to prevent a deficit starting July 1 and pay raises for school staff.

Schuh discussed the aggressive plan to increase school spending with The Capital Tuesday afternoon, just a day after the Maryland State Department of Education granted a waiver for the $22.5 million bail out of the fund. The waiver exempted the county from state law that requires all increased funding to be recurring.

As reported by The Capital Gazette,

“The one-time money just buys you time. It just pushes the day of reckoning,” Schuh said.

Anne Arundel County government received a similar waiver last year for $10 million for county schools’ health care fund.

County officials plan to unveil a two-year plan Thursday they hope will stabilize the health care fund, which is expected to run about $20 million in the red for the second consecutive year. School staff attribute the deficit to rising health cost and increasing school staff.

The executive said those unions must help bring health care expenses in line with revenue by paying a greater portion of the costs. Unions for teachers, administrators, maintenance workers and secretaries are negotiating with the county Board of Education on cost sharing for office visits, laboratory tests, emergency visits and other medical treatment.

“That’s the next big phase,” said Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for county schools.

Bill Jones, executive director of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said teachers will have to pay more for health care. The conflict is over “how deep” the concessions will be, he said.

Last week, three schools unions agreed to increases in copays for some prescriptions drugs to save the school system about $400,000. The three-year agreement starts in 2018. The school system also negotiated a deal with CareFirst that would save them$16.9 million from 2018 to 2020.

The school system struggled to keep up with monthly medical payments. Earlier this year, school officials transferred $2 million from a surplus fund to pay for health care. Schuh also transferred $5 million from the county budget to help pay for health care this fiscal year to avoid drastic actions, such as furloughs and layoffs. .

County Council member Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis, said increasing teacher pay will mitigate the pay loss of shifting health care costs to teachers.

“We’re also not asking teachers to take one step forward and two steps back,” he said.

But county government won’t be able to meet some county and school needs in the budget set to be unveiled next week so it can pay for health care.

“It means fewer police, fire fighters, less pay increases, fewer bike trials, less for parks…” Schuh said.

Schuh said the state waiver freed him to fund both school staff raises and the health care fund.

“We avoided a major disaster,” he said.

Read the full article for more information.

Deadline Set for Administration’s Decision in Federal Overtime Lawsuit

A Federal Court of Appeals grants the Trump Administration until June 30th to determine whether to continue defending a lawsuit that challenges an Obama-era regulatory expansion.

A federal court of appeals has granted the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) its third extension in defending a lawsuit challenging new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations according to the HR Daily Advisor.

tipton
Commissioner Tipton of Mineral County, Nevada testifies in Congress on the new Department of Labor overtime rule.

The National Association of Counties has advocated against the new regulations, with county officials testifying that the costly changes could negatively affect the ability of county governments to provide key services.

As reported by the HR Daily Advisor,

A lower court temporarily enjoined the rule last year and the Obama administration appealed that order. Now, the Trump administration must decide whether to continue with that defense.

Citing lack of leadership—specifically, a secretary of labor—the DOL has now requested and received three delays, giving it until June 30 to make a decision.

 

As described by HR Daily Advisor,

The rule, which was scheduled to take effect December 1, 2016, would have required employers to pay overtime to employees earning less than $913 per week (which amounts to $47,476 annually). The change would have more than doubled the existing threshold.

States and business groups challenged the rule in court and a federal district court judge granted a preliminary injunction, temporarily halting the rules just days before their effective date.

For more information, see 3rd Delay: Trump’s DOL to Address Overtime Rule by June 30 from the HR Daily Advisor.

 

For prior coverage, see these posts on Conduit Street:

Anne Arundel School Board, Unions, Agree to Increase in Drug Copays

As part of an effort to curb health care cost for the Anne Arundel County Public School System, three of the schools’ unions agreed to increases in copays for some prescriptions drugs to save the school system about $400,000. The three-year agreement starts in 2018.

As reported by The Capital Gazette,

The school system’s health care fund has faced about a $20 million deficit in the past two years. Medical costs rose and the school system has been expanding its staff. Earlier this year, the school system transferred $2 million from a surplus fund to pay for health care. County Executive Steve Schuh also transferred $5 million from the county budget to help pay for health care for school employees and avoid drastic actions, such as furloughs and layoffs.

Schuh and school officials have said they need to shift some costs of the health insurance to employees to make the fund sustainable.

The agreement between the school board, Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, the Association of Educational Leaders, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees increases copays for preferred prescription drugs to $20 and non-preferred brand prescriptions to $35. Those unions represent teachers, administrators and maintenance workers respectively. Generic drugs will continue to cost $5.

School staff that belong to those three unions now have copays of $15 for preferred brands and $25 for non-preferred brand.

Under the plan, a new tier called specialty prescriptions, which are defined as injectables with the exception of insulin, would have a copay of $50 in 2018, $65 in 2019 and $75 in 2020.

The agreement also allows specialty prescriptions to be redefined after Jan. 1, 2019.

School officials’ effort to curb costs include an agreement with CareFirst that saves the school system $16.9 million over a three-year period, starting in 2018.

County officials are also asking the State Board of Education to allow the county government to make a one-time allocation of $22.5 million for school health care costs for the fiscal year beginning July 1. This would exempt the school system from the state law that requires the level of per-pupil funding in one year to be matched in all subsequent years.

The state agency is expected to respond by the end of the month.

Read the full article for more information.

2017 Aspire Awards from NACo & Nationwide – Submissions Due May 26

The National Association of Counties (NACo) and Nationwide Retirement Solutions are excited to launch the 2017 Aspire Awards which honors and recognizes counties for innovative solutions and promoting employee retirement savings. Submissions are due May 26, 2017.

Are you aware that over 350,000 county employees from more than 3,000 county agencies are saving for retirement with the NACo Deferred Compensation program? That’s 350,000 citizens who were given the opportunity to take an active role in planning for their future – 350,000 community members who, in the face of numerous and competing financial demands, took that opportunity, and decided to utilize a trusted program to save. In a day and age when individuals and organizations alike are pushed to do more with less, NACo is eager to recognize the monumental contribution from NACo’s county plan sponsors in marketing this cornerstone program successfully and helping that number of participants reach new heights.

Please review the guidelines here for further information. Please address questions to Carlos Greene at NACo at cgreene@naco.org or 404-263-3656.

2017 End of Session Wrap-Up: Employee Benefits & Relations

The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s employee benefits advocacy in the 2017 General Assembly. 

Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database

Teacher Pension Costs

Push Icons-WONMACo supported successful passage of a bill that addresses the shortfall in funding required to meet the portion of Maryland state teacher pension costs that exceed costs anticipated during the 2012 “pension shift.” MACo joined the Maryland Association of Boards of Education in supporting the State one-time appropriation of $19.7 million to close the gap. House Bill 1109/Senate Bill 1001 was signed into law by the Governor. Bill InformationMACo Coverage

Residency Requirements for County Employees

Push Icons-WONMACo successfully supported passage of a bill to provide local governments with greater autonomy and flexibility in implementing local policies designed to serve and react to community needs. House Bill 167 has been passed by both chambers and awaits the Governor’s signature. Bill InformationMACo Coverage

Collective Bargaining Mandates


MACo helped stop two collective bargaining mandates that would have increased costs and administration for county governments
.

Push Icons-DEFEATEDHouse Bill 1370 mandated a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all design that would expand collective bargaining rights in a third of Maryland’s counties. “Employment Rights for Local Government Employees” did not advance out of committee. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

 

Push Icons-DEFEATEDSenate Bill 652/House Bill 871 would have mandated certain collective bargaining structures at county-funded community colleges.  Neither bill advanced out of its assigned committees in either chamber. Bill Information | MACo Coverage

 

Sick Leave

MACo opposed three bills that would have created new requirements for county government sick leave policies.

Push Icons-NOT IDEALSenate Bill 230/House Bill 1 The “Maryland Healthy Working Families Act” passed the General Assembly and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Bill InformationMACo Coverage

 

 

Push Icons-DEFEATEDSenate Bill 305/House Bill 382 “Commonsense Paid Leave Act,” which was part of the Governor’s legislative package, did not advance out of committee in either chamber. Bill InformationMACo Coverage

 

Push Icons-DEFEATEDHouse Bill 854, a bill targeting at county governments and the benefits they provide to grant-funded employees, received an unfavorable report from the House Economic Matters Committee. Bill InformationMACo Coverage 

Minimum Wage

Push Icons-DEFEATEDMACo opposed a bill called the “Fight for Fifteen,” which would have raised the statewide minimum wage to $15 by 2023. Counties had concerns that this increase would place a significant fiscal burden on county governments. Senate Bill 962/House Bill 1416 did not advance out of committee in either chamber.  Bill InformationMACo Coverage.

Click here for a round up of the wrap-ups for all policy areas

Maryland General Assembly Gives Final OK to Democrats’ Sick Leave Bill

The General Assembly gave final approval to a bill that would extend paid sick leave to almost 700,000 Maryland workers, setting up a potential clash with Gov. Larry Hogan, who has threatened to veto the measure.

The House of Delegates approved the Senate version of the Democratic legislation by a veto-proof margin, sending it to the Republican governor.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

A Hogan veto would set up an override vote as one of the first items of business when the legislature reconvenes in an election year next January. Hogan promised last month to veto the bill, which he derided as “a partisan attempt to put points on the board to use against me in a campaign in 2018.”

Asked about the bill at an event in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon, Hogan was more equivocal.

“We’re dealing with the 27 bills they sent us,” he said. “They’re going to send us another thousand. We’ll have until May to talk about all those.”

The legislation, five years in the making, would require businesses with 15 or more full-time employees to let their workers earn at least five days of sick time a year.

Hogan had proposed a rival bill that would have applied to businesses that employ 50 or more workers in a single location. Democrats rejected that approach, saying businesses that large typically already provide employees with paid sick leave.

The governor’s bill would have offered tax credits for smaller businesses to offer such a benefit. Democrats said Hogan never explained how he would pay for the $60 million annual cost of the credit.

Republicans warned that the bill sponsored by Democrats would hurt small businesses and cause them to close their doors or move out of state.

The House voted 87-53 to approve the legislation. GOP delegates voted as a bloc against the bill. Three Democrats joined them. Another was absent Wednesday. It takes 85 votes in the House to override a veto.

The Senate passed the bill Monday, after amending it to reduce some burdens on businesses.

Where the House had proposed seven days of leave, the Senate changed that to five. The Senate also changed the average number of hours an employee needs to work per week to qualify from eight to 12, and extended the minimum number of days on the payroll to qualify from 90 to 106, a concession to employers who hire workers for seasonal jobs, such as those in Ocean City in the summer.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but got hung up in the Senate Finance Committee.

That panel’s chairman, Sen. Thomas M. “Mac” Middleton, convened a work group including businesses and advocates last summer. The group helped hammer out a more acceptable version of the bill.

With the Democrats’ proposal gaining momentum, Hogan weighed in late last year with what he billed as a “common sense” alternative. The measure won praise from Republican lawmakers, but business groups did not line up to support it.

Read the full article for more information.