Arundel schools funding withheld

County executive vetoes millions to protest raises

August 27, 2004|By Childs Walker and Liz F. Kay | Childs Walker and Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens vetoed a $3.5 million appropriation to the county schools yesterday with support from the County Council, saying she and the council were protesting $625,000 in raises for school administrators included in the county's 2005 budget without public discussion.

The $3.5 million allocation, passed by the County Council this month, included none of the raise money but would have provided funds for gifted-and-talented programs, library materials and a summer academy at Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn.

It was unclear yesterday what impact the loss of the money would have on school operations as classes start Monday. Council members said they are open to another budget request and want to fund the expanded gifted program and library materials but expect school officials to make up for the raises.

The raises were part of the $440.7 million school budget approved by the County Council in May. The $3.5 million supplemental appropriation vetoed yesterday was approved Aug. 16.

Owens and the council are using the veto as leverage to alter the original budget, which they say was presented in bad faith and without adequate explanation.

They said they cannot support sweeping raises that would increase some administrative salaries as much as 14.75 percent. They also questioned why employees are given credit for experience in other school systems when calculating raises.

The council's decision to support Owens' veto of a bill it passed less than two weeks ago is highly unusual. But council members, six of whom indicated their support for a veto in a letter delivered to Owens on Wednesday, said they felt school leaders tried to slip the raises by them.

Superintendent Eric J. Smith defended the raises, saying Anne Arundel's salaries generally are not competitive and that few senior administrators will choose to come to Anne Arundel if they have to sacrifice experience earned elsewhere.

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