Leaders of Carroll County's school unions agreed yesterday to a salary freeze that would deny members the 3 percent raise they negotiated as part of a two-year deal just a year ago.
Union officials say accepting the give-back, which members must ratify by June 10, is the only way the school system can avoid deep cuts to classroom programs.
"I haven't talked to any school employee who is happy with this, but I think they have an understanding that this is the best possible solution we could come up with under the circumstances," said Ralph C. Blevins, president of the Carroll County Education Association.
As school budgets are squeezed throughout the state, teachers have been accepting little or no raises, sometimes in return for noncash benefits. In Howard County, for example, only some teachers will get small pay increases, but all teachers will be relieved of lunch and recess supervision duties.
In return for the salary freeze in Carroll, 2,400 teachers and other school employees will have lower insurance premium and co-payment costs and be allowed to carry over one personal day into next school year.
The agreement saves the school system about $4 million that would have gone for raises, but increased insurance coverage will cost the schools $1 million, for a net savings of $3 million.
All five employee unions agreed to return to the bargaining table in February after hundreds of county residents jammed a series of public hearings to protest threatened cuts to programs such as elementary instrumental music and gifted education.
"We live here, we work here, we want to try to solve the problem and we'll do the best we can," said Harold Fox, a staff member of the Maryland State Teachers Association who negotiated for the teachers. "We don't want there to be an expectation that if there's a problem, the employees will always suck it up."
Pub Date: 5/11/96