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City seeks more pension debt relief

March 11, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

City seeks more pension debt relief

ANNAPOLIS - After asking for a $5 million reduction in its nearly $10 million pension debt last year and coming away with half that amount, Hagerstown officials are again seeking financial help from the Maryland General Assembly.

Now they want the other half.

City officials on Tuesday presented their case during a brief hearing before the House Appropriations Committee for legislation that would further trim the pension debt by $2.5 million.

That would allow the city to pay off the remaining $5 million without significantly affecting the city's budget or services, said City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman.

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"We can live with the $5 million," he said.

The city's pension debt resulted from a 1996 law that changed the structure of municipal contributions to the state retirement system. Under the new law, the city, despite having paid its pension bills to the state on time and in the amount requested, found it owed $9.96 million to the system.

"We suffered as a result of their change in methodology," Zimmerman said.

City and state officials quickly put together a plan that would have trimmed the amount in half. That plan was amended by legislative leaders who said the state could afford to pay only about half that amount this year.

But city officials said they were encouraged by the same leaders to come back this year and seek the other $2.5 million, to be paid next year.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, chairman of the Washington County delegation, said he sensed no opposition from the committee this year, but stopped short of saying he was certain members would vote for the plan.

"I still have to work on them a little bit," Donoghue said.

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