Howard teachers won't get promised catch-up raises Can't pay 16% increase to make up for raise denied earlier, Hickey says.

October 31, 1991|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Evening Sun Staff

Howard County's school superintendent says he will not be able to compensate teachers for the loss of raises this year by giving them large increases next school year as he had hoped.

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said last summer that he would request a 16 percent pay increase for teachers in fiscal 1993, which begins July 1, to bring them up to the level they are supposed to reach next year under the current contract.

The pact gave teachers a 6 percent increase last year, but budget constraints prompted county officials to withhold the 6 percent increase this year, the second year of the agreement.

Hickey said it would take a 16 percent increase to bring teacher salaries from the contract's first-year pay level, where they remain, to the third-year level in fiscal 1993 when step increases and cost of living raises are included.

He said he would seek to reopen the contract with the Howard County Education Association, the collective bargaining unit for teachers, to reduce the amount of increase.

"There's no way, even if the county wanted to fund the contract,that the money is going to be there," Hickey said. "It will have to be renegotiated."

HCEA President James Swab said yesterday that his organization has yet to be asked to renegotiate.

"If we get a request from the school board to renegotiate the teachers' contract, we will respond at that time," said Swab, adding that his main concerns now are to preserve school programs and the size of classes.

The contract-renegotiation talk came as school board members and administrators met yesterday with members of the Howard County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to air their gripes over budget problems. Officials agreed that the meeting was needed to give school officials a clearer perception of the state's position and to let legislators know about the school system's plight.

The board voted Tuesday night to trim nearly $4 million from its budget to help the county bridge a $9.5 million shortfall.

One of the sticking points between legislators and school officials has been salary increases for teachers. Del. Martin G. Madden, R-13th, said he supports several measures to

raise money for the county, including motel taxes and development fees, but he decried the possible 16 percent raises for teachers.

"We've got to all work together," said Madden, who also criticized HCEA's decision to protest the lack of raises this year by asking members not to volunteer for school activities outside the classroom.

Del. Robert L. Flanagan, chairman of the county's legislative delegation, pointed to a chart showing that the average salary for Maryland workers has declined over the last year. He said teachers were fortunate even without the raises.

"When everybody else, on the average, was getting less across the state, teachers were maintained," Flanagan said. "That's a victory."

School Board Chairwoman Deborah D. Kendig said the meeting gave her a better understanding of the state's financial crisis. But she told legislators she wanted them to support a provision that requires counties to maintain funding levels and to oppose any measures that would give the county more authority to make school budget decisions.

Another concern, said Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, R-14th, is that school officials submit "realistic" budgets. "If you come in unrealistically high," he said, "what is cut from that may just be the wish list."

Board member Karen B. Campbell defended the school's budget, which has been pared to less than $180 million from the $200.8 million that Hickey had requested.

"That wasn't a pie-in-the-sky budget," she said. "We had a contract that was negotiated in good faith . . . It recognized that we were going to have an increase of 1,300 students."

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