School board approves fiscal year budgets

Included is a 6% raise for teachers, assistants


The Howard County Board of Education approved capital and operating budgets for the fiscal year beginning in July of more than a half-billion dollars this week - the largest amount ever granted the school system.

Still, it fell short of the original request by $32 million.

The operating budget of $461 million, which pays for things such as instructional materials and salaries, is nearly 9 percent larger than the current budget. The board also approved a capital budget of $95.7 million Wednesday.

A bulk of the operating budget increase - about $24 million - will be used to pay for a 6 percent salary increase for teachers and instructional assistants.

"Not only do we support [teachers] with words, but we support them with money," said Courtney Watson, the board chairman, after approving the budget Wednesday night. It was a sentiment she repeated over and over, staring hard at teachers union President Joe Staub, who was in the audience with his daughter.

At Watson's urging, school system Chief of Staff Mark Blom said Howard was one of two districts in Maryland this year to offer a 6 percent salary increase. Three systems offered 4 percent and the remaining 19 districts offered 3 percent or less.

The board also approved higher beginning teacher salary scales that are projected to move Howard from its ninth-place ranking in Maryland to fifth place. "Our staff deserves it," said board member James P. O'Donnell.

The capital budget will pay for work on at least three new schools - a high school, an elementary and a replacement school for Cedar Lane, which serves about 120 severely disabled children - and renovations at several others.

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