A growing number of Maryland counties are seeing the writing on the wall: State legislators are going to shift some of the cost of rising teacher pensions to them. Now they are trying to soften the blow.
In a letter to the Montgomery County delegation in Annapolis on Monday, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) adjusted their hardline stance against the pension shift, saying that if it were to occur, the state should require the county and the school board share the costs.
“As you know we do not think the shift is justified on any policy basis,” Leggett and Berliner wrote. “Nonetheless, if you conclude that there are not acceptable alternatives to the shift, we urge you to keep the cost impact on our community to a minimum.”
By having the school board share in the burden, they argue, there would be “some modest incentive for school systems to control these costs.” School board president Shirley Brandman (At Large) did not immediately have a comment on the letter, saying she had not read it.
The letter comes as the Senate delegation — as well as some House delegates — from Montgomery County are pushing for a major overhaul of how school funding is paid for. In a spending plan being considered in Annapolis, the state would assume authority to seize county tax revenue and to hand it directly to school boards to ensure that counties maintain what are among the nation’s highest levels of per-pupil spending.
In the letter, Berliner and Leggett reiterated their staunch opposition to changes to at-pupil spending. County officials hand-delivered the letter to the legislators’ offices and called them individually.
Michael Sanderson, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said other counties now largely agree with the letter. He added that leaders of various Maryland counties “may very well” discuss Montgomery’s suggested change at a meeting Wednesday with officials from the General Assembly.
“At some point, we have to make the best of a bad situation,” Sanderson said.
Staff writer Michael Alison Chandler contributed to this report.