Harford Community College employees will see raises of between $12.60 and $24 in weekly paychecks immediately as a result of a Board of Trustees vote June 25 granting 3 percent cost-of-living raises.
County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann last week criticized the raises, saying the move would result in the school paying a financial penalty for granting the raise.
Richard J. Pappas, HCC's president, said the "penalty" would be $70,000 to cover additional Social Security and retirement costs that accompany the raise. The state refuses to make the payments if agencies that receive state money choose to give raises when state workers don't receive them.
"We were faced with a moral decision," said Mr. Pappas. "It would have been morally wrong not to grant a cost-of-living raise when we could afford it."
HCC employees not already at the top of the pay scale also are eligible for step, or annual raises, which are granted after good performance reviews. Those raises will average 3.5 percent.
County government employees have already been granted a step raise, but not cost-of-living raises.
Frances Turcott, an HCC spokeswoman, said the average salary of the 79 full-time faculty members at the school is $42,500. Less than half would be eligible for both raises, which would amount to an additional average of $53 a week for faculty members.
The average salary of 108 classified employees at HCC is $22,000, and about two-thirds would be eligible for both raises, Ms. Turcott said. Employees eligible for both raises would see an additional average $27.50 a week in their paychecks.
The penalty and the 3 percent raise will cost the college a total of $300,000, Mr. Pappas said. The single step increase will cost the college $165,000, Mr. Pappas said.
The school's operating budget is $16.1 million, including $5.1 million in county dollars. The rest is made up of state contributions, tuition, grants and donations.
Although the raise is a modest one, Mrs. Rehrmann said she fears the state may retaliate if it has to cut its own budget this fall.
"This may be a key piece in determining what they cut in the fall," said Mrs. Rehrmann.
But Nick Gounaris, chairman of the HCC Board of Trustees, said the board "knew the risks."
"We've been agonizing over this for months," said Mr. Gounaris. "But it's the people, not the buildings, providing education. We have an obligation to keep quality people. If we're put in a position where we can't give a raise when we can afford to, then we're not serving the community, to say nothing of the college."
Mr. Pappas, too, disputed Mrs. Rehrmann's contention.
Mr. Pappas noted that HCC was one of only three community colleges that did not give either step or cost-of-living raises last // year. But HCC, like all 16 other community colleges, lost 25 percent of its state aid in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
"Why would we be penalized now?" said Mr. Pappas.
Harford County government is giving only one step raise to eligible county employees, including Board of Education and Harford County Public Library employees.
About half the county's work force will qualify for the single step increase, which amounts to about a 3.5 percent raise. For a county worker with an average salary of $27,000, a single step increase would amount to $18 a week.