With the slightest nod to political pressure, Harford Community College President Richard J. Pappas announced last week that he would donate part of his recently announced pay raise to a college fund.
Last month, Mr. Pappas, HCC's president for the past three years, outraged some local politicians by accepting the 5 percent raise that the school's nine-member Board of Trustees approved. The raise boosted his annual salary to $83,475.
"Over the past couple of weeks it has become increasingly evident to me that the raise, which I and my family deeply appreciate, has unnecessarily become an issue to some public officials," Mr. Pappas said at the trustees' regular monthly meeting Thursday night.
He said the raise has kept people from concentrating on the real issue -- an expected 25 percent cut in state aid.
The college is expected to lose a total of $1.5 in state aid this year, which would bring the loss in state aid over the past three years to $3.4 million.
Mr. Pappas said he hoped the donation of the merit portion of his raise, 2 percent or about $1,600, would be "used for scholarships to students who need it the most." The money will go to the Harford Community College Foundation Inc., established two years ago to raise money for college programs, including scholarships to HCC students.
State Sen. William H. Amoss, D-District 35A, one of the most outspoken critics of the raise, told the board Thursday he does not want to see raises in tuition or cuts in student services to offset state budget cuts.
"The state budget has shrunk by 4.5 percent, and not one employee has received a raise or step increase," said Mr. Amoss.
"Some have, however, received other things, such as furlough days, less overtime pay or no overtime pay, and limited comp time," he said.
Despite criticism from Mr. Amoss and other politicians, Leland Sanborn, board president, defended the 3 percent cost-of-living raise granted college employees and the 5 percent raise given to Mr. Pappas.
"We continue to believe that all salary adjustments for college employees were fair," he said.
In addition to voting Mr. Pappas a 5 percent raise, the board also in August granted 4 percent raises to three HCC vice presidents.
In July, the board approved 3 percent cost-of-living raises and step, or annual, raises for HCC faculty and staff. The raises cost the college an additional $70,000 to cover accompanying Social Security and benefits because the state refused to pay for those expenses.
County Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson, one of the few public officials to support the raises, sent a letter to the trustees praising their action.
"I believe Dr. Pappas is the best thing that has happened to the Harford Community College," Mr. Wilson said in his letter, which was read into the record Thursday night. "He has sought a vision and energy and commitment which has transformed the college in a very brief time. I think you were absolutely right to reward his superb service."
The board also discussed the impact of cuts in the state's education budget on HCC.
Mr. Sanborn urged Mr. Amoss to lobby the state legislature to stop budget cuts for community colleges.
"Over the next few months, as we face the challenging task of reducing our budget once again, we have as our goal that no student will suffer, no program will be eliminated and no tuition will be raised," Mr. Sanborn reassured Mr. Amoss.
But Mr. Pappas added that while he expects the college to weather the state budget cuts without raising tuition, furloughing employees or eliminating jobs, such promises will be more difficult to keep if the amount of state cuts exceeds $1.5 million.
HCC already has lost $400,000 in state aid this year and stands to lose another $1.1 million.
State reductions last year of $1.5 million -- 10 percent of HCC's $15 million budget -- forced the college to cut services and eliminate free courses offered through the county's five senior centers.