Gary pledges to eliminate school raises Board approved $6.4 million in pay increases

'They are pipe-dreaming'

Budget exceeds executive's limit by $10 million

February 23, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary vowed yesterday to eliminate the $6.4 million in pay raises the school board voted to give its workers before he sends his budget proposal to the County Council.

The school board approved a $435.8 million operating budget Wednesday that included a 2 percent raise for its employees, and sent it to Mr. Gary. The spending plan is $8.3 million more than Superintendent Carol S. Parham had recommended and more than $10 million above the figure Mr. Gary had in mind.

"They are pipe-dreaming," he said. "We simply don't have the money to fund those kinds of requests. We would not be agreeable to a pay raise of that magnitude when we are not proposing a pay raise to our county employees."

The school board and negotiators for the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, which represents the county's 4,000 teachers, agreed on the raise. The teachers, who did not receive a raise this year, are expected to ratify a contract by mid-March.

The three unions that represent other school board employees have clauses in their contracts that guarantee the same percentage raises as teachers.

Mr. Gary, who said he does not plan to seek an increase in the property tax rate this year, must submit his budget proposal to the council May 1. The council must adopt a budget by May 31.

The spending plan the board approved is "a real budget that tells me what their real needs are," he said. But the board's needs are greater than the money that is available, he said.

"If we would have difficulty affording what Dr. Parham had requested, then we would have even more difficulty with what they have proposed now," said Ray Elwell, a county budget analyst.

Dr. Parham proposed a $427.5 million budget that included no pay raises and only one new program, $472,000 for an alternative high school for disruptive teen-agers that is to open in time for the second semester next year.

The board added $572,000 for 14 reading specialists, which would place a reading teacher in all 76 elementary schools; $504,000 for a program to train half the teachers to prepare students for the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests, and $200,000 to bring standardized testing to elementary and middle grades that the state does not test. The state tests grades three, five and eight.

The board also kept a controversial French immersion pilot program at Crofton Woods Elementary School, approved Dr. Parham's request for 45 new teachers to keep up with an expected enrollment increase of 1,700, and agreed to expand computer studies in high schools by buying 24 computers.

The French immersion program, in which 30 kindergartners at Crofton Woods are learning to read, write and speak in French before they are taught the same skills in English, stirred debate among board members over whether and how the nation's 47th-largest school system should meet the needs of its diverse population of 72,000 students.

Proponents see it as the kind of innovative program that enhances the school system. But opponents call it a luxury.

In addition to the budget the board approved Wednesday, Dr. Parham might ask for supplemental funds to address problems at Van Bokkelen Elementary School, where failing test scores led state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to order an overhaul, and at other schools on an internal county warning list. Some money for Van Bokkelen might come from a state appropriation.

County officials say they probably can accommodate much of the school system's proposed $47.6 million capital budget because school officials say $28.5 million of it could come from developers' fees and grants set aside for school use. School officials are seeking $12.7 million to complete renovations and an addition at Broadneck High School, $7.4 million toward new Jacobsville and Ridgeway elementary schools, and $13.6 million toward a new Meade area middle school.

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