The Anne Arundel County Board of Education has adopted a cost-containment program that includes four-day furloughs for all school employees, including the superintendent.
The board voted unanimously yesterday to adopt the plan that reduces the current school budget by $10 million. The plan takes effect the first week in December and lasts until June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
"This offers the greatest financial support with the least employee effect," said Jo Ann Tollenger, the board president. "We felt furloughs were preferable to layoffs."
Last month, the board cut about $5 million from its current budget. But County Executive Robert R. Neall told the board to cut an additional $5.1 million by today. The budget now stands at $331 million.
Neall ordered the cuts to make up for the county's loss of $20.8 million in state funds, effective Nov. 1.
Under the plan, transportation for students involved in sports and other extracurricular activities will be halted for high school students and reduced to two days a week in the lower schools. The cuts also will affect teacher recruitment and training and overtime for custodians.
The first wave of cuts included a hiring freeze and reductions in the purchases of supplies, materials and equipment, and in maintenance of buildings and grounds.
Under Neall's order, the board could not cut classroom employees. But he ordered a $4 million wage cut.
School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton and his staff recommended that cut come in the form of furloughs rather than layoffs for the school system's more than 5,000 employees.
"The real issue was compliance or non-compliance with the county executive," Lorton said. "We were directed to make cuts a certain way. [Neall] tied the board's hands.
"The most distasteful part of this is the politicization of education. The county government wants to be the apparent authority on how the board is to spend its money educating children. They want to override the people who know more about education than anyone in the Arundel Center [the county government building]," Lorton added.
Thomas Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said the board's decision was not unexpected, considering the alternatives.
"They're going to be demoralized," Paolino said of teachers. "They're going to believe nobody [in the Neall administration] cares for them.
"But [the union] will be there to support them. We still believe there's money in the budget to be cut that won't result in furloughs. We're going to continue working with the board. And we have a number of things planned for our employees. We're going to be placing a lot of phone calls, writing a lot of letters, and even doing some picketing."
Through a spokeswoman, Neall expressed delight with the school board's action.
"The county executive is delighted with the board's cooperation and their timely response," said Louise Hayman. "He believes the real winners in this will be the students of Anne Arundel County. The reductions the board has recommended will not affect students directly."
Neall had given the county's remaining 10,810 union and non-union employees until noon Tuesday to choose among accepting a 3 percent wage reduction or five unpaid holidays or layoffs. The union representing 100 detention center employees rejected the choices. Neall said layoff notices will be sent to three jail employees by the end of the week.
The 550-member firefighters' union, the 25-member sheriff's deputies' union, the 380-member clerical and technical members' union, and 800 mid-level managers all took the 3 percent pay cut.
The union representing the county police department, which has 400 members, took the unpaid vacation.
About 950 blue-collar workers still face the possibility of receiving layoff notices by the end of the week after they failed to meet Tuesday's noon deadline.
Marvin Redding, president of the union representing the workers, said some members have challenged the way a vote on the issue was conducted. He cannot give Neall a final decision until the dispute is settled.