United Way deductions voted down; Commissioners say county payroll plan imposes on workers; Lacked employee support; Similar proposals by charity were turned down before


Carroll has the only county government in the Baltimore metropolitan area without a United Way campaign, and yesterday the county commissioners voted it was best to stay that way.

Saying the campaign lacked employee support and may put pressure on them to give, the commissioners rejected United Way's request to allow county employees to make contributions to the nonprofit agency through payroll deductions.

"As an elected official, I don't want to impose solicitation on our employees," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

Dell said employees are free to send donations to the United Way if they wish. But a campaign with voluntary payroll deductions may make some employees feel uncomfortable, he said.

"It's not my job to impose that solicitation on employees. I know that imposition is not the intent, but I am the administrator and that's how I feel about it," said Dell, who rejected similar proposals by United Way during his previous two terms.

Without Dell's backing, the United Way's proposal failed again.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, who had expressed support for the campaign, had said she would vote in favor of the measure only if it won the support of all three commissioners.

She fulfilled that promise yesterday, voting against the proposal.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge abstained, but offered cautious support for the campaign.

"I would be willing if it was strictly done with no pressure for anyone," she said.

United Way volunteers walked away from the meeting disappointed but not surprised at the outcome.

Virginia W. Smith, chief executive officer of Union National Bank and chairwoman of the nonprofit group's local fund-raising committee, said she met with Dell last week to encourage him to back the campaign, but he would not bend.

"I think we will come back, but we have to have more support. [County commissioners have] gotten negative responses from employees," Smith said.

Many of the county's largest employers -- such as banks, Random House, Western Maryland College, Carroll County General Hospital, the city of Westminster and Carroll County Public Schools -- allow employees to make United Way contributions through payroll deductions.

The United Way Community Partnership of Carroll County raised $309,678 in corporate and payroll deductions last year. In turn, the United Way of Central Maryland gave $928,600 to Carroll through grants to community agencies such as Human Services Programs Inc. of Carroll County, Scouting groups and the Red Cross.

But Carroll County government has remained opposed to joining the partnership. Carroll is the only county served by United Way of Central Maryland -- which includes Baltimore and the counties in the metropolitan area -- whose government does not have a campaign.

A survey conducted by the county several years ago showed about 6 percent of the county's 930 employees would take advantage of the program if it were offered. Frazier indicated yesterday the level of employee support may not be that high. According to her informal survey, most employees were not interested in giving.

Many employees already make contributions to charities or volunteer in their communities. Other employees had no interest in giving. And some employees were opposed to the voluntary payroll deductions, she said.

Carroll Henderson, regional development director for the United Way, remained upbeat about future campaign's in Carroll.

"I would like to have them run a campaign no matter how small," he said.

In the meantime, if any employees want to give to the campaign on their own, Henderson said United Way is ready to accept their donation.

"I would drive five miles for $5," he said.

Pub Date: 9/14/99

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