The Board of Education pleaded its case yesterday, asking the four unions representing school system employees for help in meeting budgetcutbacks, either through furloughs or pay cuts.
Three of the fourschool unions, as well as non-union employees, said they would agreeto furloughs as a final option. However, officials of the the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County remained unpersuaded.
"(County Executive Robert R.) Neall just hired five more people,"SAAAC President Dee Zepp said after the meeting. "He refuses to giveup his car paid by taxpayers, and (Gov. William Donald) Schaefer gota $40,000 pay raise. He wants to tell my members, who average about $14,000, that they should take a pay cut. I don't have 15 percent whomake $20,000."
Approximately 7,000 employees -- including School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton and maybe even part-time workers -- would be affected if the idea of a pay cut is accepted. Union members were asked to consider five-day furloughs, 4 percent pay cuts or layoffs.
"No one can be exempted," board President Jo Ann Tollenger said. "We're looking for employee work groups to tell us what they suggest. The more heads the better. We are trying to get a sense of what is acceptable and what they are willing to do."
School board members summoned union leaders and parent representatives to the Board of Education yesterday, after meeting with Neall on Tuesday to determine the school system's share of state budget cuts.
"I walked away feeling agreeable that we would make the cuts, but he still has line-item control," Tollenger said. "If Bobby has to do what he has to do, the board has to do what it has to do. That's unfortunate."
Tollenger said Neall is asking the board to pick up $5.1 million of the $7.9 million cutback recently ordered by the state. The board already was asked to cut $5.1 million earlier this school year, and another $1 million is needed for contracted teacher sabbatical pay and transportation.
The first $5.1 million was trimmed from the system's $341 million budget through a hiring freeze and 20 percent cuts in maintenance and supplies and materials. But school officials warned union representatives that the second $5.1 million must come from employee concessions.
Tom Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of AnneArundel County, said the board must ensure that the public understand the effects budget cuts have on school programs.
"We've got to communicate to the public," he told board members. "As long as the board continues to take cuts and provide full service programs, the ideawill be out there that there is fat in the budget. That pain has to start coming out."
Options for making up the money include five-day employee furloughs or a salary reduction of 4 percent for the remainder of the year. To make up the money through layoffs, 350 teachers -- or 450 workers including teacher aides, clerical workers and custodians -- would be affected.
Cutting extracurricular pay and student activity buses and sending kindergartners to school only on alternate days are options, but they would save only about $2 million.
"The options are still open to us," Tollenger said. "In fairness, everything on the list is up for grabs. We've got to give the process a chance to work. I want the least impact upon the classroom.
"I wouldpersonally favor those things that are least catastrophic and do nothave a long-term effect. If we have cuts to salaries, I'm concerned that it will affect retirement benefits."
Union representatives for teachers, principals, custodians and secretaries came with recommendations of their own for cuts they say should be made before they areasked to give up pay. Leaders of the countywide Parent Teacher Association and Citizens Advisory Committee also offered suggestions.
Areas recommended for savings included:
* All expenses related to the Maryland School Performance Program.
* ISIS, the systemwide computer plan, which could be put on hold for a year.
* $49,000 for consultants.
* $42,780 for conventions.
* $200,000 for middle school team leaders.
* $10,000 for recruitment.
* $2.4 million incapital projects, including renovations to Center for Applied Technology South.
* $110,000 in workshops.
* Rerouting school buses to cut number of empty seats.
* Charging for after-school driver's education.
* Mandatory annual leave during the holidays.
* Paying coaches from game receipts.
The group polled school board members to determine whether they would be willing to fight the County Council if, after the board decides on ways to give money back to the county, Neall would still want line-item veto power. Board members agreed that they would be willing to go to battle.
"If he, Bob Neall, reneges on that, I'm ready to fight," board member Paul Greksa said.
A special board meeting will be held next week, for members to make decisions on cuts. The date and time will be announced later this week.