Tag Archives: Maryland

Springfield Hospital workers ask Hogan to reconsider possible job cuts

Source: Jon Kelvey, Carroll County Times, March 31, 2016

A half-dozen food service workers from Springfield Hospital Center fanned out around a strip mall of small businesses in Eldersburg on Thursday afternoon, each clad in the bright green T-shirts of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to protest potential job cuts on the horizon. Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed fiscal year 2017 budget would eliminate 57 food service positions at the facility, and the workers were there to speak with local business owners and the community about their plight. … Hogan’s budget eliminates funding for the food service jobs at Springfield, presumably bringing in a private contractor to handle service, with a projected savings of $1 million, according to Jeff Pittman, a union spokesman. He and the food workers present Thursday afternoon are not so sure that’s as good a deal as it sounds.

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Springfield Hospital workers, local business leaders question Hogan over proposed job cuts
Source: Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun, February 27, 2016

The move, which the state health department has said would save $1 million, has been questioned by legislative leaders in Annapolis who cite the fact that the state is projected to have a $400 million surplus this year. … Matthew A. Clark, a Hogan spokesman, has said the administration is working to make sure employees who lose their jobs find new ones, in state government or elsewhere. He said Hogan is “focused on making sure every state agency runs as efficiently as possible while delivering the best service to taxpayers.”

Editorial: Hogan’s penny pinching
Source: The Baltimore Sun, January 28, 2016

… Thanks to a rebounding economy, Maryland now expects to finish the current fiscal year with about $420 million more in tax collections than analysts expected at this time last year. The budget for the current year, fiscal 2016, is in “structural balance,” meaning that ongoing revenues exceed ongoing expenditures … Despite the flush balance sheet, the governor has made a number of penurious decisions. He is funding step increases for state workers but not a general cost-of-living increase. He is eliminating a net of 553 positions in state government (though most of them are currently unfilled). … Moves like outsourcing food service at Springfield Hospital (and the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents-Gildner) may result in greater efficiency, or they may result in worse service. Deciding not to give state workers a raise at a time when state revenues are coming in much higher than expected may help put the governor in a position to offer substantial tax cuts in the years ahead, but it may also contribute to low morale, high turnover and poor performance.

Some question Maryland layoffs given budget surplus
Source: Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun, January 26, 2016

The jobs of dozens of low-level state workers at the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville are on the chopping block in Gov. Larry Hogan’s $42 billion proposed state budget. … Senate President Thomas V. Miller questioned Tuesday whether the job cuts are necessary when the state is projecting a surplus of more than $400 million this year. … Warren Deschenaux, the General Assembly’s chief fiscal analyst, said Tuesday that his agency had yet to receive a full accounting of the 553 state positions slated for abolition under Hogan’s budget proposal. He said his understanding is that about 100 positions would be contracted to private firms. … It was not clear how many of the abolished positions are vacant and how many would involve layoffs. Hogan administration officials declined to provide specific layoff figures Tuesday. …

For-profit colleges in Maryland are ripping off students, consumer group says

Source: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post, February 5, 2016

Maryland students are making a risky bet when they attend for-profit schools that are saddling them with high levels of debt for what are often worthless degrees, according to a new report from the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition. … The consumer advocacy group compared costs, student debt and loan defaults at for-profit colleges, private career schools and public colleges in Maryland, using data from the Department of Education and Maryland Higher Education Commission, a state regulator. Advocates found that programs offered at for-profit schools cost at least twice as much as public colleges and universities. One for-profit college in Maryland charges $52,737 for a degree in dental hygiene, while an associate’s degree in the same field at the state’s public colleges costs about one-sixth that price. The average income of a dental hygienist in Maryland is $38,740. … Students at for-profit schools in Maryland borrow three times more than their peers at public colleges and universities, leaving school with a median $18,083 in loans. Twenty-three percent of students enrolled in for-profit schools for a certificate or degree default on their loans, compared to 15 percent of students at public colleges in Maryland.

Read Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition report.

Metro contractor pressed to fix bridge over Green Line tracks in College Park

Source: Luz Lazo, Washington Post, January 16, 2016

Nine months after a Metro contractor’s crane destroyed a pedestrian bridge over Green Line tracks in Prince George’s County, the company has yet to complete replacement of the structure. What’s more, the unusable bridge has further delayed a rail project that was supposed to have been finished nearly two years ago. … Skanska also has a $66 million contract with Metro to build a test track to run parallel to the Green Line between the Greenbelt and College Park Metro stations. The transit agency will use the 10,000-foot track to test the hundreds of new 7,000-series rail cars it plans to buy by 2018. With an original completion date of March 2014, the project was already behind schedule when the bridge collapse — caused by a piece of equipment being used in the project — happened on April 15. …

Law Enforcement Investigations and Actions Regarding For-Profit Colleges

Source: David Halperin, Republic Report, Updated October 9, 2015

This is a list of pending and recent significant federal and state law enforcement investigations of, and actions against, for-profit colleges. It also includes some major investigations and disciplinary actions by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Defense.  It does not include investigations or disciplinary actions by state education oversight boards.  It also does not include lawsuits prosecuted only by private parties — students, staff, etc. To date, 37 state attorneys general are participating in a joint working group examining for-profit colleges, according to the office of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. Many of those are actively investigating specific for-profit colleges in their states.

Moody’s downgrades Corizon’s parent company, citing contract losses

Source: Brian Sonenstein, Shadow Proof, October 16, 2015

For the fourth time in two years, Moody’s Investor Service downgraded the Corporate Family Rating (CFR) for Valitas Health Services, a Missouri-based company which owns Corizon Health Services, the largest inmate medical provider in the United States. A CFR is assigned to a “corporate family,” rating a parent company and its subsidiaries as though it were one entity. In determining the ratings action, Moody’s cited volatility among Corizon’s contracts and confusion regarding the status of company’s agreement with Florida, where state prison officials claimed they would rebid around $1 billion in inmate medical contracts, but have yet to do so. Moody’s called for “greater clarity around the status of the company’s Florida contract” as one condition that would need to be fulfilled before the rating could be upgraded. … In April 2013, a Moody’s Ratings Action stated “near-term earnings pressure following the recent losses of the Maine, Maryland, and Pennsylvania DOC contracts” influenced a ratings downgrade. … Five months later, in September 2013, Moody’s downgraded Valitas again and changed their ratings outlook from stable to negative, where it has remained ever since. Moody’s downgraded Valitas a third time in August 2014, writing, “we expect the company to continue to face near-term earnings pressure following recent contract losses and certain underperforming state Department of Corrections contracts.”

Judge throws out ex-employees suit against Harford over landfill outsourcing

Source: Allan Vought, The Baltimore Sun, September 25, 2015

A Harford County judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by two former county employees who sought to block the county’s shift of its landfill and other solid waste operations to an outside contractor, the quasi-public Maryland Environmental Service. Circuit Court Judge Angela Eaves ruled in an opinion released Sept. 18 that the plaintiffs, David Cupp and Jonathan Magness, had failed to demonstrate there was “a genuine dispute of material fact” in their claim against the county, nor had they exhausted all administrative remedies under county grievance procedures. … Eaves had earlier declined to grant an injunction blocking the county from turning the operations of its Division of Environmental Services over to the MES, an independent agency of the state government. MES received what the county administration said is a $4.7 million intergovernmental contract to run the division for the remainder of this fiscal year. The agreement took effect on Aug. 29 and eliminated 46 county positions, including those of Cupp, a weighmaster, and Magness, a laborer, who worked at the landfill in Street, which was part of the outsourcing.

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Harford wants to let landfill contractors’ employees drive county vehicles
Source:Bryna Sumer, The Baltimore Sun, August 31, 2015

Harford County wants to let employees of the outside contractor now overseeing its landfill operations to be able to use county-owned vehicles. … Maryland Environmental Service, a state-authorized agency that operates autonomously of state government, took over operation of the county’s last landfill and related solid waste collection and disposal services on Monday morning. … Glassman signed a $4.7 million agreement with MES on Aug. 19 to outsource management of the county’s solid waste services to the quasi-governmental entity. The outsourcing will “improve efficiency, realize cost savings and minimize future expenditures,” Glassman said in a statement when the move was announced in June. Transferring waste management to MES eliminated 46 county jobs. On Aug. 14, two employees filed suit in an effort to stop the transfer, but a judge ruled Friday the MES takeover of county solid waste operations could continue, while the suit is pending before the court.

Judge declines to stop Harford solid waste outsourcing; employees’ suit to be heard Sept. 21
Source: David Anderson, The Baltimore Sun, August 31, 2015

A Harford County judge did not render a decision Friday on a request to stop the county government from completing its outsourcing of solid waste services to contractor Maryland Environmental Service, allowing the takeover of solid waste operations to begin Monday as scheduled. Instead of blocking the outsourcing, Circuit Court Judge Angela Eaves set a trial date for the suit brought by two employees, who claim the outsourcing is depriving them of health benefits and pension rights. … Eaves did not rule on a request for injunction, however, but she set Sept. 11 as the date for a hearing on motions filed by both sides. The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 21, said Bel Air attorney John E. Kelly, who is representing the plaintiffs. By taking no action, Eaves effectively let MES begin operating the county landfill in Street and other related services on Monday morning, as planned by the county. … The county administration says the outsourcing of the operations of the landfill in Street, recycling operations and the delivery of trash to a Baltimore County transfer station, scheduled to begin in 2016, can be done more efficiently and cheaply by MES. One of the issues that has been raised by the Cupp and Magness suit is that the outsourcing to MES allows the county to forego health benefits for the 40-plus employees whose jobs were eliminated. … Kelly noted his clients did not get positions elsewhere in county government and had been left with no choice but to take jobs with MES, which he said meant cuts in pay and a loss of full Harford County retirement benefits.

Md. strengthens disclosure of political activity by contractors

Source: John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun, September 5, 2015

Businesses that win contracts with local and state governments in Maryland are facing new requirements to disclose their political donations — and state election officials are using the information to build a first-of-its-kind database of contractors. … all contractors that do more than $200,000 in business will now have to register with the Maryland State Board of Elections, even if they do not give to a political campaign. Failure to file will carry a penalty up to $500. And state election officials are now putting the records online. … Government watchdogs have long scrutinized the relationship between campaign donations and contract awards — and the new tool will aid in that analysis. But the online tool will also provide a one-stop database of every major contractor in Maryland, whether the company is doing business the state itself, or a single county in Western Maryland. … The records are available at https://www.businessdisclosure.elections.maryland.gov/

Developers get breaks to buy Baltimore’s public housing

Source: Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun, September 5, 2015

Baltimore officials have awarded tax breaks worth millions to developers buying a dozen of the city’s public housing complexes, some of which are being sold for far less than their state-assessed value. Under terms approved by Baltimore’s spending board, the city will excuse an estimated $1.7 million a year in taxes for at least two decades as part of a plan to privatize and renovate thousands of public housing units. … In all, the Housing Authority plans to sell 23 complexes — 40 percent of its public housing. Officials stress that the privatized units will continue to be operated as low-income housing, with eligibility and rents dictated by the federal government. … The developers buying the McCulloh high-rises will pay $79,570 a year in lieu of property taxes, less than a quarter of the $404,000 full property tax rate. Officials say the break was needed to entice a business to take on the project, the same rationale given when similar breaks have been awarded for large commercial projects such as Harbor East. … Baltimore is the 26th-largest city in the country, but has the fifth-most public housing — more than 11,000 units.

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Workers, Residents Concerned About Plan to Refurbish Baltimore Public Housing
Source: Fox Baltimore, June 11, 2014

Baltimore’s aging public housing complexes are due for a massive face-lift. Many residents are now worried about how they’ll be impacted by a multi-million dollar plan to refurbish their buildings. A “speak-out” as held Wednesday by workers and residents at the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to “demand that implementation of the RAD program is halted until they can have meaningful participation in the transition, and can explore more transformative solutions ….

Residents, union workers protest sale of public housing
Source: Danae King, Baltimore Sun, June 11, 2014

Sixty city public housing residents and union workers staged a protest Wednesday against a plan to sell the housing to private developers. Protesters fear the Housing Authority of Baltimore City’s plan would lead to lost jobs, displaced residents and less available public housing. …The plan, announced in March, involves the city selling 40 percent of its public housing to private developers to raise money for upgrades and maintenance. The federal government is offering tax credits to developers who buy and renovate public housing. …. Union workers who perform maintenance and carpentry in the buildings also protested. Paul Wallace, 48 and vice president AFSCME Local 647, said the city is “displacing people.”
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Sodexo providing food service to Talbot County Public Schools

Source: Katie Willis, The Star Democrat, August 25, 2015

Gayle Secrist, director of support services with Talbot County Public Schools, said the decision to outsource food service within TCPS came this past year, when the school system and the board of education decided something had to be done about the continuing depletion of their fund balance. The fund balance is the school’s profit on food service from year to year, she said. … Secrist said TCPS began researching other options and the board of education decided to outsource food service, rather than handle it in house, as they had done in the past. She said Sodexo’s bid guaranteed a net profit to the school system that was “three times what could be done by an in-house food service.” She said Sodexo also was able to hire all staff currently working with the school system’s food service at the same hourly rate they were receiving before the switch.

Seven Things to Know about the County’s Plan to Partially Privatize Liquor Distribution

Source: Andrew Metcalf, Bethesda Magazine, July 31, 2015

However, two council members on the ad hoc committee, George Leventhal and Marc Elrich, scaled back talks about full privatization, pointing out that the DLC’s estimated $30 million in annual profits is spent on other county priorities. The loss of that revenue would be noticeable, especially because the county is facing the possibility of a property tax hike in order to raise enough funds to pass the fiscal year 2017 budget. … The department also employs more than 300 union employees who work in the retail stores and wholesale operations. UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) Local 1994 MCGEO President Gino Renne has said the employees will lose their jobs and benefits if the department is privatized.

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On Loosening Some Alcohol Sales Rules, Montgomery County Makes It Official
Source: Matt Bush, WAMU, July 29, 2015

For the first time since Prohibition ended in the U.S. more than 80 years ago, Maryland’s Montgomery County – which owns all the liquor stores within its borders — is taking steps to privatize the sale of alcohol. The county Council is formally asking the Maryland General Assembly to allow bars and restaurants to “special order” beer and wine from private stores. They now must buy it from county-owned stores or through the Department of Liquor Control….Montgomery County is one of the few local governments in the U.S. with complete control over its liquor stores. Many bars and restaurants have long complained the county does not offer a broad enough selection of wine and beer to fit customer demand. …

Council Agrees On Partial Privatization of Liquor Control, But Some Want More
Source: Aaron Kraut, Bethesda Magazine, July 28, 2015

The Montgomery County Council Tuesday approved a resolution that could lead to partial-privatization of the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC), especially when it comes to the distribution of specialty craft beer and fine wines. … “For nine years I have asked myself why our County is the only county in the country to have a monopoly in the liquor business,” Berliner said in a prepared statement. “The answer, it seems, is simple: revenue and county employee jobs. I don’t find that answer satisfying… Council member Marc Elrich, a member of the committee, again said the DLC can make common-sense changes to improve its delivery services that will allow the county to continue collecting close to $30 million annually that goes into the county’s general fund. But Berliner said the revenue and county jobs don’t justify keeping the department open….