In characteristic union flair, a sea of yellow United Food and Commercial Workers Union t-shirts took over the Montgomery County Council meeting room Tuesday as county employees from the UFCW and five other organizations spoke out against a measure that would shift pension costs for teachers from the state to the county.
and have both voiced their opposition to the shift as well.
The burden of cost transferred to the county could cripple services to the county that are already thin due to budget constraints, according to UFCW Montgomery County Government Employees Union President Gino Renne.
If the shift happens, it will cost the county $47.4 million in fiscal year 2013 and rise to $71 million by fiscal year 2017, according to Montgomery County Council Staff Director Stephen B. Farber. Montgomery County has the highest pension cost of any county in Maryland according to statistics provided by the county.
County leaders and groups from around Montgomery County spoke on how the cost would affect them.
The expense would have an undeniable impact on education if it was shifted to the school budget, Montgomery County Board of Education President Shirley Brandman said.
"MCPS has already reduced its budget by more than $400 million since fiscal year 2009, requiring an increase in class size, the elimination of 1,300 positions and a more than 20 percent reduction in central services," Brandman said.
The $47 million would add three children to each classroom on average, according to Montgomery County Education Association President Tom Israel.
"This is a state budget problem that has been created by decisions that the state government has made," Israel said. "The state is passing their bad decisions onto the county."
The affect will be felt at the post-secondary level too, as half of Montgomery College employees participate in the pension program, Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard.
State and county support for MC has dwindled, according to Pollard, despite growth in enrollment. The pension shift could increase tuition $4 per credit hour for each student, she said.
County libraries could be affected as well, June Fitzmeyer, a library employee who belongs to the UFCW Montgomery County Government Employees Union told Patch. That could be devastating to lower-income residents, Fitzmeyer said.
"Libraries are a refuge and a safe haven for some people," she said. "Not everyone has a computer so what happens to that whole segment of the population? It puts the burden on people who need those library resources."