The Howard County Council tabled a motion Tuesday that could bring increased benefits to the children of fallen officers.
The motion, brought before the council by Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers, would bump the amount paid to the dependents of deceased officers from $30 to $1,000 per month through an adjustment to the department’s benefit plan.
While Rogers said his goal was to provide funding for the families of officers killed in the line of duty, the council also discussed the option of including officers who die of natural causes while employed by the department.
The council will likely vote on a measure including one or both options at its next meeting on June 28.
In effect, the $1,000 per month benefit would be standard among all families, regardless of how many dependents are involved.
For instance, four dependents of a fallen officer would receive the same monthly amount as a single dependent of another deceased officer. Funding would continue until the youngest child turns 18 years old.
While some counties provide $1,000 to each dependent, Rogers, who said he supported the council’s decision to review the change, wanted to be “a little more conservative,” he noted.
The increase would come as the first adjustment to the $30 amount since the plan was adopted in 1974.
“That is woefully lacking for today,” said Rogers.
The increase, which was motivated by the death of Deputy Carl Koontz on March 20, was given wide support by those on the council who spoke Tuesday. Koontz left behind a now 9-month-old son, Noah Koontz.
With the funding retroactive to Jan. 1, however, numerous members expressed their desire to read through a study commissioned by the sheriff’s department and research the effect possible increases could have on the department’s pension plan before voting on the measure.
“I am most agreeable to the proposal here but I would like to have some paper in front of me with some numbers that I can refer to please before we vote on this,” said council member John Roberts.
“It is a big step to the plan that you would want to make sure,” added council member Jeff Stout. “We are setting a precedent for a long time.”
In relation to the department’s pension plan, Stan Brown of McCready and Keene, a benefits consulting firm, said it is solvent enough to handle such funding increases.
In addition, Rogers called the pension plan, which is paid by officer contributions and service of civil process fees in lieu of dipping into the general fund, one of “most solvent plans in the state.”