Teachers call for raises at hearing

Executive's budget doesn't fully fund schools' request

May 09, 2004|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Brian Rheinhardt, a sixth-year English teacher at C. Milton Wright High School, is in line for a $46.50-a-week pay raise this year, and he asked members of the Harford County Council last week to see that he gets the money.

Rheinhardt, a resident of Bel Air, was one of about a dozen and a half teachers and school support people who turned out at the council's budget hearing Thursday night to encourage the lawmakers to fully fund the school board's budget for the fiscal year starting in July.

He said the raise, which is before taxes, is a result of a tentative contract reached earlier this year between the school system and the bargaining unit representing teachers.

But there's not enough money in County Executive James M. Harkins' proposed budget to cover the pay increase, according to Jacqueline C. Haas, superintendent of schools.

Rheinhardt asked the council to add $5.5 million to the budget to pay for the teacher pay raises.

Under the tentative agreement, teachers are due a 3 percent cost-of-living pay increase and an annual step increase based on their experience.

Several other teachers told the council that the pay increase would be a big help in attracting and retaining quality teachers.

Benjamin White, a Fallston resident and biology teacher at Bel Air High School, said he could earn between $5,000 and $15,000 more a year by traveling 15 miles north or 10 miles south of his present job.

Nancy Foley, a teacher at C. Milton Wright who lives in Joppa, told the council that county workers are due a 1 percent raise in the new budget. "Please don't take that away from the hard-working county employees," she said.

There was also a request that the council limit property tax increase for retired workers living on fixed incomes.

Last month the Board of Education voted to break with its past practice and not reconcile its budget request fully with the county executive's allotment for schools.

Board members - faced with the choice of reneging on union contract agreements or not funding priorities they spent weeks discussing and ranking - chose to honor the tentative contracts.

Haas said she would like the council to fund the pay raises for teachers and would welcome any additional funding that could be used to pay for things on the board's priority list, which includes the hiring of 80 teachers.

Thursday's meeting at Edgewood High School was the first of two public budget hearings scheduled by the council.

The second session is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at North Harford High School, 211 Pylesville Road, Pylesville.

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