Hoping to improve recruiting and retention, the Carroll County commissioners approved yesterday a plan to improve pension benefits for sheriff's deputies, who are thought to have one of the smallest compensation packages among Maryland law enforcement agencies.
Less than a week ago, the commissioners voted to create a county police department. As the commissioners phase out the state police resident trooper program, through which laws are now enforced in the county, an expanded sheriff's office could see the county through that transition, Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning said.
Although the sheriff's office has grown in recent years to 71 authorized deputies, it has five vacancies, Lt. Phil Kasten said. He said lack of a competitive retirement package prompts officers to look for jobs elsewhere.
"We've consistently maintained about three vacancies over the last three years," said Kasten, the department's spokesman. "We can't keep people."
Tregoning had hoped that the county would fund retirement benefits for his deputies under the state-run Law Enforcement Officers Pension System, which covers the police departments in Westminster and Taneytown, and the Harford County Sheriff's Office. That system awards retirees 50 percent of their salary after 25 years of service.
Currently, Carroll County sheriff's deputies retire with 21 percent of their salary plus any 401(k) benefits after 30 years of service. The same plan covers civilian county employees, said Carole Hammen, the county director of human resources.
State troopers get 56 percent of their pay after 22 years of service but aren't eligible for Social Security benefits, Hammen said.
Under the new pension plan, a Carroll deputy would receive 2 percent of his final salary for each year of service. An officer retiring after 25 years of service would receive 50 percent of his final average salary, human resources officials said. With at least 15 years of service, deputies could retire as early as age 55.
Current deputies would be paid 0.7 percent of their final salary for each year worked before the start of the new pension plan, Hammen said.
Under the new plan, deputies would contribute 8 percent of their salary to their pension. Under the current plan, they contribute 2 percent, plus any 401(k) contributions.
Hammen said the new plan would go into effect early next year. A public hearing will be held before final approval.