Wicomico County’s Budget Proposal Benefits from Real Property Base

Wicomico County Executive Culver has presented his proposed operating budget to the County Council.

download
Wicomico County’s proposed operating budget total is a 6.2% increase over the current year’s budget. 

As described in the Wicomico County Budget proposal, a continued increase in the County’s net assessable real property base and a positive trend in employment support county investments in services, while allowing the county to maintain current tax rates.

Here are a few highlights from the budget as described in the budget summary and as reported by the Salisbury Independent:

Total Operating Budget

  • “The budget formally presented Tuesday to the County Council totals $143.7 million, a 6.2 percent increase over the current year’s budget of $135.2 million,” according to the Independent.

Education Funding

  • The budget satistifies the maintenance of effort requirement for the county, including an increaseof more than $1 million required by the maintenance of effort escalator.

Taxes

  • Tax rates remain unchanged in the proposed budget.

Government Employee Salaries

  • Eligible employees will receive a 2% COLA and Communications Operators will receive a salary increase.

For more information, see Culver unveils $143.7 million spending plan from the Salisbury Independent and the proposed operating budget for Wicomico County.

Prospective Officers Face Rule Change Regarding Marijuana Use

The Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission voted to approve changes to state policy regarding prior use of marijuana by prospective police officers. The rule change would ease restrictions on how much of the drug a potential officer may have consumed prior to being hired.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The new rule, which received final approval from the Maryland Police Training and Standards Commission on Wednesday, bars the hiring of any prospective officers who have smoked marijuana in the past three years. It replaces a state policy dating to the 1970s that had disqualified police applicants who had used marijuana more than 20 times in their lives, or five times since turning 21 years old.

The rule was reviewed by the Office of Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. It takes effect June 1.

The training and standards commission, part of the state corrections department, regulates police hiring in the state. The panel voted 16-1 to approve the change, spokesman Gerard Shields said.

The commission had recommended the change at its inaugural meeting in October. A legal review and a public comment period followed. Officials said they received no comments.

The new rule allows individual police chiefs to hold applicants to their agencies to a stricter marijuana standard if they choose, officials said.

While the move would help jurisdictions such as Baltimore City where Police Commissioner Kevin Davis strongly supported the change, it is not without opposition. The article notes that Vince Canales, president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, was the lone vote in opposition to the change citing the illegality of marijuana at the federal level and the uncertainty of state laws regarding the drug.

Read The Baltimore Sun to learn more.

Local Collective Bargaining Mandate Misses “Crossover” Deadline

A bill that would require all counties to extend collective bargaining rights to all of their employees – except for supervisory, managerial, or confidential employees, or elected or appointed officials, has not moved out of the House Appropriations Committee. HB 1370 failed to move prior to yesterday’s “crossover” deadline, and bills passed out from now on go to the Rules Committee of the second chamber, a procedural hurdle impeding their chances of final passage.

MACo opposed the bill, as it mandates a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all design that would expand collective bargaining rights in a third of Maryland’s counties.

From the MACo testimony,

Maryland county governments vary in many ways. They come in different forms of government, including charter, commission, and code home rule. They are different sizes, ranging from less than two hundred employees to more than ten thousand. And, they have different levels of collective bargaining rights. Some authorize collective bargaining for all the employees described in HB 1370, some have it for public safety employees, and others do not currently have collective bargaining agreements.

Requiring even Maryland’s smallest county governments and any municipal governments in Maryland that have more than 20 employees to authorize collective bargaining to almost all their employees will create a new administrative burden, and could also create additional personnel costs. The low threshold and broad application of HB 1370 puts pressure on some of the state’s smallest jurisdictions, which may be least able to accommodate additional administration and costs.

Useful Links

2016 Bill: HB 736

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Sick Leave Legislation Heading to Conference Committee

Both the House and Senate have passed sick and safe leave legislation with veto proof majorities. The bills would require Maryland employers to provide paid sick and safe leave for many of their employees. However, since SB 230 and HB 1 are not identical, the differences are likely to be worked out in a conference committee in the coming days.

The bill would also require 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.

Useful Links

MACo testimony on SB 230

For more on MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session, visit our Legislative Tracking Database.

New Staffing Services & Solutions Through U.S. Communities

2016 US CommU.S. Communities is excited to announce the dual award for staffing services and solutions with Acro Service Corporation and Knowledge Services.

From the announcement:

The contract term is for three years with the option to extend the contract for six additional periods of one year each. This contract provides solutions for agencies to save on staffing services, but also on managed service provider solutions and services such as recruitment, payroll and temp-to-hire services. To learn more about each contract and the solutions available, register for a complimentary 30-minute webinar.

Acro Service Corporation provides temporary staffing services across a wide range of job categories at predetermined prices, and then streamlines managing multiple temporary staffing providers in a single point of contact through its Managed Service Provider (MSP) program. MSP services are typically only possible for large organizations, but Acro is offering this service for all U.S. Communities participants, no matter how small. Acro is also a diversity supplier and fills positions with talent in your local community.

Knowledge Services takes on the primary responsibilities for managing an agency’s workforce and temporary staffing process, vendors, and contractors. Knowledge Services provides a vendor-neutral solution which ensures all staffing partners receive the same requisitions simultaneously. The U.S.-based Knowledge Services MSP/VMS services allow public entities access to high-quality talent at the most competitive pricing in the industry. Knowledge Services understands the needs of public sector clients, embraces small/minority business initiatives and provides funding source reporting, among many other benefits.

To learn more about this contract with Acro and Knowledge Services, register for the webinars. If you are unable to attend one of the webinar dates, contact U.S. Communities for additional information.

Webinar Dates:

Gov. Hogan Appoints Lourdes Padilla Head of DHR, DoIT Secretary Resigns

Governor Larry Hogan has appointed Lourdes Padilla as secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR), effective Feb. 8th.

According to a press release,

Ms. Padilla has more than 28 years of experience in the human services field. She currently serves as the Deputy Secretary for Income Maintenance at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, a role she is leaving to join the Hogan-Rutherford administration. In this capacity, she oversees operations for five bureaus under the agency, including Child Support Enforcement, Program Support, and Program Evaluation. She manages over 90 field offices with over 7,000 employees, and is responsible for an operating budget of more than $2 billion.

Governor Hogan also announced the departure of Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) Secretary David A. Garcia, who tendered his resignation in order to attend to family and personal issues. He will remain in his position through the end of January, during which time a search will be conducted for his replacement.

Read the full press release for more information.

State & Local Government Workforces Should Expect Changes in 2017

The new year will likely bring significant changes to state and local government workforces.

Republicans are gaining more control at the federal and state levels than any party has had in decades. State pension plans have suffered from unpredictable returns. And weak revenues are causing the most state budget shortfalls since the Great Recession.

According to Governing Magazine,

“There’s so much uncertainty that changes seem inevitable,” said Steven Kreisberg, director of research and collective bargaining at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

While much remains unknown, here’s a rundown of the potential legislation and executive branch actions that may come down the pike in the coming months. Our conclusions are based on interviews with union officials as well as state and local associations and HR executives.

Retiree health care

When financial times are tough, governments often look to retiree health care. A continued pull back on new employees’ retiree health care is likely. There are also likely to be more cuts to existing employees’ benefits — but only in the states that are legally allowed to do that.

Pensions

With investment returns well below expectations, there will be increased pressure to lower the assumed interest rate of returns for state and local pensions.

California’s largest pension fund, often a trailblazer that other states look to, already dropped its assumed rate of return from 7.75 to 7.5 percent in 2012 and is considering dropping it even farther in 2017. These lower numbers are intended to require states to adapt to the “new normal,” in which returns over 7 percent may be unachievable.

The changes being made may not seem large, but those actions will push already escalating annual employer contribution rates even higher. That in turn will lead to more pressure to reconfigure the benefits themselves. The push to move employees to defined contribution or hybrid pension plans, for example, is likely to continue in 2017.

At the very least, Michigan is likely to re-introduce a plan to move teachers to a 401-k style system in place of its defined benefit plan. This follows actions taken for other state employees in the late 1990s.

Unions

“We’re going to see a number of anti-labor bills,” said AFSCME’s Kreisberg. These include expected right-to-work bills — which limit the power of labor unions — in Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire.

Other anticipated legislation includes efforts to withdraw automatic payroll deduction for union dues in Missouri and some attempts to narrow the types of issues that unions can legally negotiate. In Iowa, for instance, there’s a push to stop unions from negotiating their health benefits at the bargaining table.

Workplace

On the administrative side, governments may be putting more money into professional development. As the baby boomers continue to age out of the workforce, it’s more necessary than ever to help the Gen Xers and millennials who will fill their shoes. (In general, millennials now make up the largest portion of the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.)

The hiring process itself may also get revamped.

Pennsylvania, which has had one of the more restrictive civil service systems, set the stage in 2016 to reform recruiting and hiring practices in 2017. To encourage young people to join public service, the Commonwealth set up a large millennial-only task force, which will start to deliver ideas in 2017 on how to attract and retain members of their generation.

Compensation

Whether workers get pay raises in 2017 will largely depend on the local or state economy. But high rates of turnover in areas like information technology, social services and corrections will likely prompt legislative requests to increase their salaries.

2017 will also likely bring a renewed emphasis on structural reorganizations of HR departments and a continuation of the long-term trend to automate transactional services and focus more attention on strategic goals within central HR departments.

Tennessee, in particular, is looking to emphasize to young people that getting a government job is not so much about good benefits or employment security, but about “the impact you can have and the difference you can make on citizens’ lives,” said Rebecca Hunter, commissioner of the state’s department of human resources.

Read the full article for more information.

Unions Push to Rescue Pending Federal Overtime Rule Change

With the controversial proposed changes to overtime rules halted by a court decision, labor unions are seeking to rescue that effort in the face of an incoming Administration that may not support them.

From an article in the online publication HR Daily Advisor:

Despite the expedited schedule, the 5th Circuit still isn’t scheduled to issue a ruling until after President-elect Donald Trump has taken office. Experts predicted that his administration will withdraw the appeal, and after he announced Andrew Puzder as his pick for Secretary of Labor, that seems even more likely, they said.

In a last-ditch effort to preserve the defense of the rule, the Texas AFL-CIO has asked the district court to allow it to join the suit. While DOL has represented the group’s interests so far, it said, that is unlikely to continue. “With the recent presidential election, and particularly as more information becomes available regarding the incoming Administration’s plans, policy, and appointments, the Texas AFL-CIO has grave concerns as to whether its interests in the Final Rule will be represented by the DOL,” it said.

“Puzder has strongly and publicly opposed the Final Rule,” it said, so “the Texas AFL-CIO is very concerned that the incoming administration will change course.”

NACo had weighed in expressing concerns on the county effects of the proposed new rule, and offered testimony on these issues.

Visit the HR Daily Advisor website for more information about labor and employment issues.