County Council members reacted angrily last week when they learned that the Board of Education has a $530,000 surplus in its budget for teachers' salaries. They delayed action on a request to use the money for other needs until at least April 2.
Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson and other council members wanted to know why the surplus --discovered in December -- wasn't used to hire new teachers in the second half of the year to relieve overcrowding.
"Why didn't we hire additional teachers for the second half of the year?" Wilson asked. "Did you go to school principals and ask them to find an effective way to use this money?"
The reason for the surplus in the teachers' salary category is that fewer teachers than expected received pay raises for earning higher degrees.
"We were a little optimistic about the number of employees who would earn higherdegrees," said Roger C. Niles, assistant superintendent for school administrative services.
"We've had a number of experienced teachers leaving the system with others coming in at lower salaries. It's a less than 1 percent error," Niles said.
Wilson responded sharply to that defense: "Are you suggesting that when your budget comes before us we can cut $530,000 because it's an insignificant amount?
"Having been on the last council some of us stayed up until 2 a.m. and 3a.m. to add up $3 million to add to your budget, and we made the other departments sacrifice, to meet this line item request," said Wilson. "I have a hard time understanding that you have not used it effectively."
The revelation about the surplus came when Niles asked thecouncil Tuesday to authorize the Board of Education to transfer $740,000 from salaries and other categories to another budget category. The board wants to spend the money on paying for new calculators, dictionaries, desks, fuel bills and special education needs.
Niles said most of the money -- $530,000 -- would come from money left in the teachers' salary portion of the budget. The total amount set aside for teachers' salaries in the 1990-1991 fiscal year is $93.9 million.
Of the $740,000, $530,000 is from instructional salaries and $210,000 from interest on investments.
Albert Seymour, a spokesman for the Board of Education, said the money would be spent as follows:
*$150,000 for calculators, protractors and dictionaries for
students to use in May during the state School Performance Program Test.
* $400,000 to pay fuel bills.
* $190,000 for special education.
The average salary of a Harford County teacher is about $36,000. Using that figure, the board could have paid the salaries of about 29 new teachers for six months.
Niles said the Board of Education did not consider hiring addi
tional teachers because assigning students to new teachers in midyear is considered disruptive, hampering learning.
The council last year voted to add $3 million to the county's share of the Board of Education budget to help the board meet its agreement to provide a 7.8 percent salary raise. A contract with school employees and teachers calls for an 8 percent raise this year.
Council member Joanne S. Parrott, R-District B, also criticized the board for the manner in which the request was presented.
"On previous occasions the council has been distressed that you are the sole person to represent the board, though you do a fine job," said Parrott.
Niles said Board of Education members and Superintendent Ray R. Keech were not able to attend because the board was meeting.