Is it fuzzy math, inexperience, or political spin? In Lisa Beisel’s article in today’s paper, he reports that there are 21 people who have realized that it is probably best to get out while the getting is good they still have a job. 21 people have taken up the City of Annapolis’ offer to retire early. But is it as rosy as they say? Or is this administration simply burying its head further in the sand?
No More Layoffs
The Mayor made the offer attractive by tying the pension to current salary and to offer people two more years of seniority. The move, says one of the City’s Public Information Officers, will save $1.9 million and prevent any future layoffs. Yes, you heard it from City Hall–no more layoffs. Employees can collectively breathe a sigh of relief–your cushy government jobs are safe! Let’s revisit this statement in a year! Remember, this is coming from the same administration that promised “curb to curb” snow removal in a week and “full occupancy” of the Market House by Memorial Day. Heck, the Administration was not even able to create the patronage job for Doug Smith to manage the Market House by Memorial Day.
Public Safety Threat
Now, I am not an accountant by trade. I did not major in economics. I did not attend nor graduate from Wharton. And apparently neither did anyone in City Hall. Among the 21 people bailing out on the City, 12 (from my non-mathematical mind that is more than half) are coming from the Fire Department. Yet, at three separate times in the article, Administration officials say there is to be no difference in public safety. Mathematically, how can this be? The article states there are 133 employees in the fire department. 12 are leaving. That leaves 121. This is 9% of the workforce. Maryland unemployment is still in the 7% range! So, how is public safety NOT impacted when you lose almost 10% of your employees? What is the solution? Increase overtime and work the remaining people 10% harder? Maybe the new Deputy Chief is a superstar and can do the work of 12 people–including 3 Battalion Chiefs. And let’s not forget that the Mayor took away funding for a ladder truck in the current budget effectively cutting the aerial support of fire suppression in half for the City.
Despite all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the layoffs, the budget cuts, the budget wrestling, and so forth, I am afraid that the City is only marginally ahead of where it was a year ago. What will happen when we have another major fire or another winter like the past? What happens when a large sink hole appears or the water lines begin to burst? Has anyone noticed the nice new paving job on Bay Ridge Avenue near Forest Drive? Does anyone have any clue when it will be finished–with lines painted on the road? It seems awfully dangerous to have an unpainted sharp curve. It is just begging for a head on crash and a lawsuit–something a self-insured City really does not need.
And finally, I can’t help but notice that one person from the Finance Department took the early retirement option as well. Are we sure that this person didn’t take an “advance” on the pension when the $150,000 was stolen from the vault in City Hall?