Editorial: Harford County staff raises proposed at 4 percent are reasonable

As it turns out, the financial difficulties that whacked Harford County government when the national economy tanked in 2008 didn't result in a radical dismemberment of the county's staff and a withering of public servants' salaries.

Like many people working for governments elsewhere, not to mention many people working for businesses large and small, employees of Harford County government were obliged to forego raises for a few years. That will change this year, however, as a 4 percent increase, proposed by Harford County Executive David Craig and retroactive to July 1, was approved Tuesday by the Harford County Council.

While government employees are easy targets for ridicule – and no doubt there are weak links in government as there are in any human endeavor – by and large government is responsible for taking care of the things in society that won't happen by themselves: making sure everyone has access to a good education, keeping roads, bridges and parks in good repair, arresting law-breakers, managing waste disposal and the like. On the whole, the people who do these jobs do them well, and when there's money in the budget they're as entitled to pay increases as anyone else who does a good job.

It appears the county government has weathered the worst of the financial storm, and it is reasonable, therefore, to include a raise for those on the public payroll.

This doesn't mean there aren't difficult issues ahead when it comes to the compensation packages the county – and most other governments – offer to their employees. Governments are among the last entities that afford to their longtime employees guaranteed pensions and health insurance that require relatively little in the way of employee contribution.

It is projected such expenses have the potential to financially strap governments from the federal to the county in years to come, if changes to the system aren't made. That's why the state government, by the way, is so eager to unload responsibility for teachers' pension plans onto the county governments, a move that is pretty much a simple shirking of responsibility.

Issues of compensation for public servants do need to be addressed, and in a meaningful way, but public servants as our employees are also entitled to fair treatment, and reasonable raises when money is available without raising tax rates is certainly in the realm of fair treatment.

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