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Carroll County superintendent calls for parents to lobby against pension shift

WESTMINSTER — Carroll County Public Schools Superintendent Steve Guthrie this week sent parents an email urging them to contact legislators to fight a state proposal by Gov.Martin O'Malley to shift a portion teacher pension costs to counties.

In the email, Guthrie said the move could impose an addition $7 million obligation to the county.

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Currently, county school systems across the state negotiate contracts with teachers and pay Social Security costs, but the state pays for pension costs. O'Malley has said that arrangement needs to change, and is seeking to move at least part of the costs to local jurisdictions.

"This is a dramatic cost shift to local governments, as the fiscal responsibility for maintaining the state's pension system has been borne by the state for the last 85 years," said Guthrie in the Feb. 21 email to parents. "Shifting $7 million in teacher pension costs to Carroll County will have a significant impact on our ability to provide quality education to the students in our school system.

Guthrie said that while O'Malley's budget includes some revenue offsets to the county to help pay for the new expense, "they are neither sustainable, nor do they fully cover the cost of the shift in teacher pensions next year and in future years."

Last week the Board of County Commissioners also voiced opposition to the proposal, and the Maryland Association of Counties organized an event in Annapolis to express opposition as well.

Guthrie said that over the past four years, CCPS has reduced spending by more than $16.5 million, with an additional $2.5 million reduction scheduled for next year.

"During that time, we reduced our workforce by over 100 employees and cut every category of spending," he said in the letter.

"While the size of our workforce has been reduced and the workload of our employees has correspondingly increased, for the most part, our students have not been impacted by these reductions," he said. "Sadly, a $7 million reduction in our budget for next year may no longer make this possible."

He said the impact of the pension shift could result in increasing class sizes, a reduction of course offerings to students and elimination of certain extra-curricular activities.

Guthrie urged parents to write to members of the General Assembly and "demand that they fill their budget gap in ways other than shifting state obligations to local counties."

The letter included a website address — http://www.carrollk12.org/boe/legislation/default.asp — where the school system has information about the budget proposal and county resources.

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