Those eligible retirements—eight of 23 total command-level employees—include battalion chiefs, fire directors, division chiefs and assistant chiefs, Hohman said.
Hohman told Patch he is preparing to reorganize his command staff based partially on how many eligible employees are granted early retirement. Those wishing to take advantage of the early retirement benefit recently passed by the County Council must make their intentions known by Dec. 30 and must retire by Feb. 29.
“I have worked for the Baltimore County Fire Department for more than 34 years and I know all of those that are considering the retirement deal on both a professional and personal level and there is no doubt that I would miss each and every one of them,” Hohman said.
If accepted, employees can be credited for up to three years of additional service to their pension plan. The agency must then permanently close out the position or a similar one.
Hohman said if all eight of the command staff who expressed interest in the retirement deal take it, combined with expected civilian employee retirements, the department would save “a substantial amount of money” in excess of $1 million annually in salaries and benefits. The fire department’s budget for the current fiscal year is $92 million, Hohman said.
“Right now we are in a fluid situation because several who have expressed interest have not filed their paperwork and some may decide to change their mind,” Hohman said.
The potential command staff retirements come at a time when many within the department expect to see an increase in retirements among those at all levels, even those not eligible for the retirement benefit.
This belief comes after the union agreed in June to a new labor deal that guarantees no layoffs, but also halts any raises for at least three years. Pension figures for firefighter retirees are computed using the salary of an employees’ final year of service.
According to fire department figures, 64 employees retired in 2010 while 32 have left the department through Nov. 24 this year. In addition, 12 employees have signed their intent to retire by the end of the year while another 14—including eight in the command staff—have indicated they would like to retire by Feb. 12, 2012 under the incentive, but have not yet signed the paperwork.
“I don’t begrudge anyone for exploring their options and making the best decision for themselves and their family,” Hohman said. “When it comes to the rank-and-file members, they are not getting any raises and there are no raises coming on the horizons, so for some there is no additional incentive to stay.”
Hohman said he knows replacing much of that institutional knowledge will not be easy, but stresses cycles like this have occurred in the past and the department is prepared to adjust.
“I am an eternal optimist,” Hohman said. “I believe we have captains and others at individual stations that will step up to the plate and take on the responsibilities needed to keep us moving forward.”