Baltimore County teachers and the school board agree that there's no money for pay raises in this recession year, but that hasn't kept them from reaching an impasse in contract negotiations.
Teachers want a 3 percent increase, and Ed Veit, president of the county teachers' association, said the board's refusal to include the pay raise in its budget shows a "lack of support."
"It's a philosophical difference," Mr. Veit said, explaining that it has been the board's practice to try and get schools what they needed.
"Now, we've gotten into this economic environment, and the Board of Education has changed the rules," Mr. Veit said. "We have a hell of a lot of good teachers, and [for the board] not to show that support is really poor."
This would be the second year of no increases for county teachers.
But school Superintendent Robert Y. Dubel said that including a pay raise for teachers in his operating budget, which is to be presented to the school board tonight, would serve only to "raise false expectations."
"We're making up this budget in light of the present dismal fiscal climate," he said. The board would, however, be willing to renegotiate with the union should the economy brighten, he added.
And Mr. Dubel stressed that his operating budget will contain a $10 million package for school employees that will include, among other things, salary restructuring for teachers that will put the county in a better position to recruit new teachers.
"I think this is not a really serious disagreement," the superintendent said, adding that he expects both sides to reach an agreement soon after next Wednesday's meeting with mediator William E. Hockenberry.
"I would hope we could settle it in the first day," Mr. Dubel said.
The mediator has 30 days to present his decision to the board.
Though it's still unknown how much Mr. Dubel will request in his operating budget, all other county departments have been told to present budgets at least 6.2 percent under what they received this year.
That task could prove difficult for a school system trying to prepare for increasing student enrollments and the delayed opening of Seven Oaks Elementary School, now scheduled for September.