The Anne Arundel County School Board adopted a $383,460,260 operating budget early today, but members said they did not intend to put about $3.1 million of it toward employee raises as the County Council had requested.
Angry union leaders exploded after the meeting, some threatening a work-to-rule job action that they said would jeopardize the ability of all schools to open and run properly come the fall.
For students, work-to-rule could mean no night events, probably no field trips, no before- or after-school extras, such as extra help for students.
School union leaders will meet later today with county government union leaders to decide what, if any, action all employee unions can take. There are about 10,000 union workers in county government and schools. Earlier this month, the county council voted to give the government workers a 3 percent raise, but it is up to County Executive Robert Neall to designate the money, and all he has promised to do is consider a pay raise in January 1994 based on the county's financial condition then.
The county council wanted the school board to forgo the additional elementary school workers it said were desperately needed and give the employees the raises instead -- raises that essentially would return money taken away in furloughs last year. The teachers union said it would drop a federal court case against the school board in exchange for getting the money.
Some of the seven school board members said they felt their hands were tied because the school system needs more elementary school workers. School board attorney P. Tyson Bennett told the board last night that the council was trying "legislative legerdemain" in efforts to "exercise some line item control, which they do not have."
Tom Paolino, president of the 3,900 member Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, accused the school board of bowing to the wishes of Mr. Neall. Jim Pickens, president of AFSCME Local 1693, said the school board was "furthering one man's political ambitions." Mr. Neall is considering a bid for the governor's seat.
"I think the board gave a slap in the face to its employees," said Dee Zepp, president of the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County. "I think they are a joke and a disgrace to Anne Arundel County."
She said her 600 workers would not put in the overtime during the summer required to get everything ready for the opening of school.
However, Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs, said she felt the board had no choice in its vote. "I think it was very poorly handled from the beginning by making a deal with the county executive," she said.