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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter8:24 amJun 4, 20240

Pension boost for Baltimore County Council members proposed by Wade Kach is approved by his colleagues

Lawmakers who voted last night to approve the upward recalculation of pensions will directly benefit when they leave the council

Above: Councilman Wade Kach (right) with David Marks, Izzy Patoka and Julian Jones, who all voted for his pension bill, at a Council meeting in January. (Mark Reutter)

The Baltimore County Council voted last night to enrich its members by tying their pensions to increases in future council salaries rather than a cost-of-living adjustment offered to other county retirees.

Led by Republican Wade Kach and chairman Izzy Patoka, a Democrat, the panel changed the way pension benefits are calculated for retired members.

Outside of a rambling story by Councilman Julian E. Jones, members made no public comments about the bill before Jones and David Marks joined Kach and Patoka to approve it.

The four lawmakers will directly benefit from the bill’s provisions if they retire from the Council after their current term ends in 2026.

Mike Ertel voted against the measure, Todd K. Crandell was absent and Pat Young did not offer an audible voice vote.

UPDATE: Young’s vote was recorded by the clerk as “aye,” making it 5-1 approval.

Under current practices, retiring lawmakers receive the same COLAs awarded to other county retirees, which have been small and infrequent since 2011.

Bill 40-24, introduced by Kach on May 3 and fast-forwarded through the legislative process by Patoka, adjusts retirement benefits not to COLAs, but to future pay increases for active council members.

Given that the council has mandated its future members’ salaries at a minimum of $78,000 a year and a maximum of $115,000 – as opposed to $69,000 at present – Kach, Patoka, Jones, Marks and Crandell would receive at least a 13.3% pension increase if they retire when their current term ends in December 2026.

What’s more, their future pensions would be recalculated upward whenever the council votes to approve a salary increase for next-term members.


County Councilman Wade Kach is angling to give himself and his colleagues a 13% raise when they retire (5/30/24)

Before the Baltimore County Council tonight: A vote to enrich members’ pensions (6/3/24)

Information Blackout

None of this information was offered at last night’s meeting. Nor was it available in documents released to the public as part of the legislative packet.

The county audit office is supposed to calculate the impact of legislation on the budget. But the “fiscal note” that accompanied Bill 40-24 simply summarizes the two-page measure.

At a legislative work session, Kach couched the pension change as a simple trade-off – that members would sacrifice COLAs in favor of “the change in compensation paid to a member of the county council.”

Missing from his description was a key fact: If subject to the county’s current rules, he and fellow council members would be barred from any COLA increases during their first five years of retirement.

“We’ve made Baltimore County Government more accountable . . . all the while fighting for fiscally responsible and sustainable budgets”  – Councilman Wade Kach.

Turning 77 next month, Kach is the oldest member of the council.

In a blog entry when running for re-election, he lauded his responsiveness and transparency.

“My office’s commitment concerning effective constituent service has never been stronger,” he wrote, adding, “We’ve made Baltimore County Government more accountable with the creation of the Office of Inspector General and the passage of significant ethics reforms, all the while fighting for fiscally responsible and sustainable budgets.”

Prior to winning his 3rd district seat in 2014, he was the longest serving member of the House of Delegates, representing northern Baltimore county for 40 years (January 8, 1975 – December 1, 2014).

Advertising his commitment to accountability and openness.

Advertising his commitment to the independence of the county inspector general last December.

Drawing Pensions Elsewhere

For his many years as a part-time legislator in Annapolis, Kach gets a monthly pension from the state.

He also draws retirement benefits from Baltimore County Schools, where he worked as a math teacher and auditor.

Jones, 61, currently receives retirement benefits from Anne Arundel County as a retired fire battalion chief.

Council Chair Patoka, 66, also has a long history in government.

He was the director of the Office of Community Initiatives under Governor Martin O’Malley from 2007 to 2015 and, before that, worked in Baltimore City government for two decades and for the Baltimore County Planning Department for five years.

His service record makes him eligible for a lucrative pension package in addition to his time served on the council.

To reach a reporter: reuttermark@yahoo.com

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