Howard County school employees will be furloughed four days if the system loses $5 million in state aid as County Executive Charles I. Ecker has warned, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said yesterday.
"It will be really tough," Mr. Hickey said, adding that furloughs would not be enough to balance the budget and other cuts would be necessary.
"The most we can receive from a furlough of four days is a reduction of $2.8 million," he said.
Mr. Ecker warned Mr. Hickey yesterday that if state aid to the county is cut by $8.2 million as the governor proposes, the school system will be asked to absorb $5 million of the loss.
The schools system's budget already is nearly $3 million less than the $179.6 million authorized last fiscal year, despite an increase in the enrollment and the opening of two new schools, school budget officials said.
Mr. Hickey said he has frozen purchases and put a lid on travel, conferences and contracted services.
"I don't know how much savings will result from the freeze on expenditures, or what in God's name we will have to do to come up with an additional $2.2 million in cuts in addition to the furloughs," he said.
Jim Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association, which represents 2,700 teachers and administrators, said that a four-day furlough "would be devastating to educators whose morale already is extremely low."
Association officials said the furlough would cost the average teacher $800.
The average teacher, with 10 years of experience and a master's degree, is paid $38,031 a year, but already has lost $3,628 in income because negotiated raises were denied this year, association officials said.
Mr. Ecker said the county has already has lost $11.5 million in state aid and likely will have to reduce services and lay off employees if it loses another $8.2 million.
He said he has asked the school system, which accounts for more than half of the county's $270 million budget, to absorb $5 million of the proposed reduction "because they have borne less in the past" than other areas of county government.
Mr. Hickey said the furloughs would take place on Jan. 24, which had been earmarked as a staff development day, and on three days set aside in anticipation of snow-related closings.
Some 1,200 Howard County teachers and parents took part in a rally last night in Annapolis to urge state legislators to find alternatives to the governor's proposed cuts in aid to local governments and school systems.