Harford Community College trustees' decision to grant a 5 percent raise to HCC's president and 4 percent raises to three vice presidents has infuriated some local political leaders.
Critics, including the county executive and a state senator, called the raises wasteful at a time when the college faces a 25 percent cut in state aid. HCC's board of trustees had already come under attack for giving a 3 percent raise to faculty and staff amid the state budget woes.
County executive Eileen Rehrmann said she worries the latest raises hurt HCC's chances for state funding. "In these difficult economic times, the leader at the top should set the example," she said.
State Sen. William H. Amoss, D-Harford, said he will criticize the board at its regular meeting Thursday night.
"I have not voted to increase funding for Harford Community College to watch them just give it away," he said.
Mr. Amoss said he would not demand that the board rescind the raise but said he will tell trustees not to tamper with the college's core services or increase tuition when the state budget cuts become official.
"If something has to be cut, I think they should look at the gingerbread things. Maybe there are too many vice presidents or too many department heads," he said.
"I want the board to look at those parts of the college. Don't look at cutting the Indians; look at cutting the chiefs."
Mr. Pappas' raise turned into a political hot potato because the college expects to lose about $1.5 million in state aid for the current budget year, which ends June 30, 1993, because of Maryland's estimated $500 million deficit. That's on top of the $400,000 hit the college took early in the summer.
The latest budget cuts, which could be announced this week, would bring the amount of state aid the college has lost in three years to $3.4 million.
Ronald Eaton, the only one of nine trustees who voted against the latest raises, said: "I wouldn't say [Mr. Pappas] didn't deserve the raise; he does deserve remuneration for his efforts at the college. But I did not feel his efforts were so overwhelmingly merited that the raise would be justified at a time when everybody else has had to tighten their belts."
But Jeffrey D. Wilson, County Council president, defended the board's decision, saying Mr. Pappas is being used as a "political scapegoat" because of economic conditions.
"I think Mrs. Rehrmann and Senator Amoss have done a great disservice to the community college," Mr. Wilson said. "How much interest are they showing in the students when they are prepared to demoralize the president and make it very difficult to find a replacement who's qualified? If I were Rick Pappas, I would have my dossier in the mail."
Leland Sanborn, president of the college's board of trustees, said Mr. Pappas got the raise because he deserved it.
Mr. Pappas, who has been president of the college for three years, said questions about the raise should be directed to the board of trustees.
The board voted in August to give Mr. Pappas the $3,975 raise, increasing his annual salary to $83,475. At the same meeting, the board granted 4 percent raises to three HCC vice presidents.
The board had already come under fire in July when it approved a 3 percent cost-of-living raise as well as a step raise for HCC faculty and staff. The raises cost the college an additional $70,000 to cover accompanying Social Security and benefit increases.
The state refuses to cover these costs if agencies that receive state money give raises when state workers get none. State and county government employees received a step raise, but no cost-of-living raises.
Mr. Amoss and Mrs. Rehrmann pointed out that the college already raised its tuition last year by $13, to $56 a credit. The increase helped cushion last year's budget cuts of 2 percent from the county and 25 percent from the state, the maximum the governor is allowed to make.
State reductions last year of $1.5 million, or 10 percent of HCC's total budget of $15 million, forced the college to cut services and eliminate free courses offered through the county's five senior centers. This year's $16.1 million college budget includes none of those services.