The Harford County Council has approved the Board of Education's request to spend $100,000 in surplus funds to hire up to five new teachers and two instructional assistants for the remainder of the school year.
School officials said the money will be transferred from the school board's undesignated fund balance of $567,438 for fiscal 1994, which ended June 30. The rest of the money will be !B reserved for contingencies and rolled over into the 1995 operating budget.
"The most pressing need of the Harford County public schools at the present time is to employ additional teachers to alleviate unusually large class sizes in several schools," Superintendent Ray R. Keech said in a memo to the school board that was later presented to the council.
Dr. Keech told the council Tuesday that the board would like to hire one high school, one middle school and three elementary school teachers. The two instructional assistants would work in the inclusion program, which mainstreams students with special needs into their home school districts, he said.
School spokesman Donald R. Morrison said officials had not decided yet which schools would get the additional help. He said one or more of the teachers might be hired as long-term substitutes, without paid benefits, in order to stretch the money over seven positions.
Dr. Keech said the board of education's undesignated fund balance typically is closer to $200,000, but it was larger this year because of favorable insurance rates, stable utility rates and fewer sick leave payments than anticipated.
In other business, the council approved spending up to $50,000 to hire the Baltimore law firm of Piper & Marbury to represent the county and local firefighters in settling a dispute among members of the former Citizens Volunteer Fire Company. The 75-year-old company, on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, had firehouses in Fawn Grove, Pa., and on Harkins Road in the Pylesville-Norrisville area of Harford County.
On Aug. 30, the Harford County Fire and Ambulance Association voted to secede from the Citizens company and form the Norrisville Fire Company, which would remain at the Norrisville station formerly known as Citizens House No. 2. At the same time, county officials and firefighters filed suit in Harford Circuit Court to bar the Citizens company from taking any equipment from the Harford County site.
County Attorney Ernest Crofoot said a court injunction was extended by mutual agreement until Friday so the two sides could work on settling the division of property.
Mr. Crofoot said outside legal help was requested because of Piper & Marbury's knowledge of corporate law and because the firm practices in both Pennsylvania and Maryland.
"Harford County has made substantial contributions to Citizens over the years," including two support grants strictly for the Norrisville station, Mr. Crofoot said. "So, the county has substantial interest in the assets of the fire station."
In fiscal 1994, Harford County contributed $156,496 to the joint company's operating budget. Fawn Grove area municipalities contributed $10,350.
Mr. Crofoot said Piper & Marbury lawyers would be used only if the fire companies could not reach a settlement this month.
Also Tuesday, Councilman Robert Wagner, of District E, introduced a resolution urging the state legislature to pass a law protecting Harford County sheriff's deputies from being dismissed or demoted without just cause.
A similar resolution was approved by the council last year, and the General Assembly passed a House bill affecting employees of the sheriff's office. But Gov. William Donald Schaefer vetoed the bill last June.
The latest resolution says a change in the law would improve the working environment and job security of county law enforcement officials, who now serve at the pleasure of the sheriff.
The sheriff's office employs about 400 people. The chief deputy sheriff, a major, the detention center warden and the sheriff's secretary would be excluded from protection under the proposed law.
County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has agreed to co-sponsor the resolution. New Sheriff Joseph Meadows, who was out of town at a conference last week, said he has not seen the resolution, but he does support "the concept of merit protection for sheriff's deputies."