The county teachers union agreed last week to a school board requestto renegotiate 6 percent pay raises and 2 percent longevity raises called for in 1992-1993 by their contract.
Neither side is talking about how much the negotiated raise for teachers, principals and supervisors represented by the Howard County Education Association might be scaled back in the face of a continuing recession.
But County Executive Charles I. Ecker held out hope that school system and county government employees will not have to face a second straight year without a pay increase.
"I'm still saying what I've said all along. I really don't think we can go two years without an increase," Ecker said. He cautioned that he wouldn't make guarantees in the present economy.
"I think it's realistic for them to expect some (raise)," he said. "County employees and board employees have sacrificed this year."
School employees from the superintendent on down received no raises this year, but have not faced the furloughs and layoffs that have hit county government workers.
The average teacher's salary in Howard County is $40,430. A starting teacher with a bachelor's degree would be paid $25,500 this year. A teacher at the top of the pay scale, with 25 years' experience and a doctorate, wouldbe paid $51,377.
It would require a 12 percent raise and 4 percent longevity increase for teachers to reach the salaries set in the three-year contract signed by HCEA and the school board in 1990.
"Given the economic realities, we're willing to compromise," said HCEA President James R. Swab. He declined to say what the association's representative council, which approved the school board request to reopen salary talks, would consider a fair compromise.
Nor would schoolboard Chairwoman Deborah D. Kendig say what the board is prepared tooffer.
"Everything is dependent on the General Assembly," she said.
State lawmakers are looking at a combination of budget cuts andtax increases to eliminate an estimated $1.2 billion state deficit. Legislative leaders hope to come up with a plan by the end of this month.
The budget reduction plan unveiled last month by Gov. WilliamDonald Schaefer would cost Howard County $8.2 million in state aid. If the General Assembly approves that plan, Ecker has told the schoolsystem it would have to absorb $5 million of that total.
Kendig said talks between board and HCEA representatives probably will not begin until the end of this month.
Negotiators for the board are already involved in ironing out new contracts for secretaries and instructional assistants represented by HCEA and custodians and maintenanceworkers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Superintendent Michael E. Hickey could not bereached for comment.