Howard County schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey and his four top administrators are receiving 4 percent salary increases for the coming school year, matching the minimum raises negotiated by teachers and other school employees.
Although relatively small, the raises may further strain tensions between the County Council and school system, which have been fighting over education dollars since the beginning of the year.
The raise boosted Dr. Hickey's annual salary from $115,750 to $120,380 July 1. The salaries of the four associate superintendents -- Sydney L. Cousin, Sandra J. Erickson, Maurice Kalin and James R. McGowan -- increased from $92,433 to $96,130.
"Our reasoning for the raise was real simple: It was the minimum that the school employees received," said Susan J. Cook, the school board's chairwoman. "We would like to have given everyone more, but the fiscal reality was we couldn't do that.
"This was the best we could do for everybody," she said.
The board approved the salary increases at a June 27 executive session during which they reviewed the performance of Dr. Hickey. The raises were not announced until last week.
The new president of the county's PTA Council, Judy Butler, said the council had not discussed the raises and she declined to comment. The new president of the Howard County Education Association was out of town and could not be reached for comment.
But County Council Chairman Charles C. Feaga criticized the decision, saying the top administrators should not receive such substantial raises when the county school system made substantial cuts in other areas to balance its budget.
"I have always felt that everyone needs enough to pay rent and buy groceries," Mr. Feaga said. "For low pay scales, that means they need percentage increases, but for those on the top scale a set amount should be enough instead of a percentage."
But Dr. Hickey and Ms. Cook defended the board's action, saying the raises were in line with what was received by the rest of the school system's employees.
"Why should five employees be singled out for what they are making?" Dr. Hickey asked. "For the five of us, the raises amount to $15,000 or $16,000 [total], which isn't very much.
"Like in the rest of the world, our higher salaries reflect the added responsibilities that we have," he said.
Unions representing the county's school workers reached agreements with the school board in early March that amounted to salary increases averaging about 4 percent.
The board has granted 3 percent raises to Dr. Hickey the past two years, which have been one or two percentage points less than the increases negotiated with the other school employees.
Three years ago, Dr. Hickey received a 10 percent salary increase when the board renewed his four-year contract -- prompting outraged teachers to complain that it was out of line with what other employees received.
Dr. Hickey and the board have agreed that he will remain as superintendent for at least one more four-year term after his contact expires in July 1996.
The increases granted to Dr. Hickey and the associate superintendents keep their salaries in line with the pay received last year by top administrators in neighboring school districts. Salary increases have not yet been decided by the school boards in many neighboring counties.
But last year, for example, Baltimore County superintendent Stuart Berger earned $115,000 and his deputy superintendent earned $98,000, according to a survey by the state Department of Education. Carroll County's superintendent, Brian Lockard, earned $116,000, and Anne Arundel County Superintendent Carol S. Parham earned $101,721.
Baltimore City Superintendent Walter G. Amprey earned the top salary -- $140,000 -- among the state's school systems last year. Dr. Hickey received the fifth-highest salary among state superintendents last year, according to the survey.