Arundel school board approves pay raises

Top administrators get across-the-board increase

September 02, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County school board approved a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for 60 top-level administrators yesterday, replacing a raise formula based on longevity that drew the ire of county officials.

At its Sept. 15 meeting, the board will consider ways to fund programs totaling $3.5 million vetoed last week by County Executive Janet S. Owens at the request of County Council members in protest of how the raises were put through.

Council members had said they did not know about the raises, approved in May as part of the regular budget process and not part of the $3.5 million in new funding for various programs.

But board members disputed claims by council members that raises for school administrators would total more than $600,000. Some of those administrators already make more than $100,000.

The new formula for raises would save the county $17,300 from what originally was allotted when the council approved the $665 million school budget this year, said board member Tricia Johnson.

Other employee groups, such as the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, received a 3 percent increase through the budget process and consequent contract negotiation.

Last night, council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks praised the school board's decision, but he said that county officials would examine the numbers closely.

"If they're getting across-the-board raises like everyone else, that's clearly much more realistic," said Middlebrooks. He added that the council's concern also stemmed from the effect on the pensions these employees would receive.

Board members acknowledged that there were problems with the raises that were approved in May, but said they were working on a solution when the county executive vetoed the bill.

Johnson said at the meeting that the board was told during the budget process that offering the administrators a 2 percent, cost-of-living increase and "step" increases - similar to those offered to principals and school-level administrators - would save $60,000.

Instead, when implemented, the formula ran $158,000 over budget.

"We received a miscalculation," she said. "We're trying to fix that."

Six of the seven members voted in favor of the new formula, which would take effect in paychecks received Sept. 29.

Several board members questioned why the council members or executive did not approach the board with their concerns instead of stopping an unrelated appropriation to fund gifted-and-talented programs and library books.

"My concern here goes to who actually runs and controls the school system," said board member Michael G. Leahy. "We were in the process of dealing with it."

Board member Eugene Peterson abstained from the vote and called for his colleagues to meet with the county executive and council to appropriate the surplus funds.

"That is school district money that we saved through savings," Peterson said. "It never should have been part of the discussion of salaries."

In a letter to Owens last week, council members said they would support these programs as long as the question regarding the raises was addressed.

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