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Better pensions a year away

April 16, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

About 300 City of Hagerstown employees will have to wait another year for enhanced retirement benefits as a result of the Maryland General Assembly's decision not to include them in a benefits package approved for most state pension participants.

The enhanced state benefits for state employees and teachers will go into effect July 1 provided an actuarial analysis does not show the plan would result in significant unexpected costs, state Sen. Donald F. Munson said Wednesday.

The state's 98 local governments - county and municipal - were fighting internally over whether to join the improved pension system since some of them provide better benefits on their own, said Munson, R-Washington.

The bill approved by state legislators calls for a joint committee of the House of Delegates and Senate to conduct a study this summer on enhancing pension benefits for local governments participating in the state retirement system, Munson said. He said he will serve on that committee.

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The Hagerstown City Council on April 7 approved creating a separate city-operated pension for 155 fire and police personnel. Under that pension plan, which will take effect July 1, fire and police employees who choose to join will be able to retire after 25 years of service rather than 30 years.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said Tuesday that city officials should consider allowing the city's remaining employees to withdraw from the state pension system and join a separate city-operated pension.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the mayor and council want to enhance retirement benefits for the remaining city employees, but will wait to see what state legislators come up with this summer.

Munson said he thinks there is support on the joint committee to find a way to include local governments in the enhanced pension system during next year's legislative session.

Under the state pension system to take effect July 1, benefit increases would be greater for state employees and teachers with lower incomes, Munson said.

For example, a state employee with a final average salary of $25,000 who retires with 30 years of service soon after the new pension takes effect would receive $9,000 a year, compared with $6,000 under the current system, Munson said.

Annual benefits for an employee with a final average salary of $60,000 would go up from $20,847 to $21,600, he said.

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