School workers may get pay raise

Officials, union OK 7 percent increase in tentative plan

February 04, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

Carroll County's contract school employees could enter the 2007-2008 year with a 7 percent salary increase, if tentative agreements with five bargaining units are adopted.

The pay raise was one of the points settled after a month of extended meetings between school officials and the bargaining units, which represent about 3,300 school employees including teachers, administrators, custodians, transportation and food-service staff, among others, said Stephen Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration.

Guthrie said school officials were "very satisfied" with the way negotiations had gone.

Each unit also settled specialized issues and requests, Guthrie said.

The two-year contract with the Carroll County Education Association also provides a 7 percent increase in extracurricular-duty stipends. The stipend is a flat sum paid to teachers who volunteer for activities outside of their classroom responsibilities, such as coaching sports or handling clubs, said Hal Fox, Maryland State Teachers Association UniServ director for the county.

The contract also made more positions eligible for the stipends, Fox said.

CCEA represents more than 2,200 teachers, nurses and counselors, he said.

Tentative agreements for all units except the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which settled Wednesday, were reached two weeks ago, Guthrie said.

The groups representing each unit in negotiations will present the tentative contracts for ratification by their members, Guthrie said.

The ratified contracts will then come before the board for signing, probably in March or April, he added.

As a result of the agreements, expenditures in the superintendent's budget for the 2008 fiscal year will likely exceed the forecasted revenue, Guthrie said. This will mean asking the county for additional funds.

School officials had originally estimated that raising salaries would cost $1.8 million for each 1 percent increase.

Guthrie said a 7 percent raise is unusual, but the school system felt it was "so far behind" other counties' salaries, with Carroll ranking next to last out of the 24 districts in starting pay for teachers.

Entry-level salaries stand at $37,133 and would rise to $40,000 in the 2007-2008 school year, he said.

Fox said the increases were essential to staying competitive in an era when teachers are "very scarce" commodities.

"We think the results are very fair," Fox said. "Unfortunately, even with this kind of gain, it's going to continue to be a challenge for Carroll County because as we catch up, some of our competitors move forward more. And it becomes an ongoing competition."

Board member Patricia Gadberry said she was glad the representatives for the bargaining units had agreed to the 7 percent increase.

"It's a good increase," Gadberry said. "I wish that we could do that all the time. It does catch us up a little bit, which will help us retain our quality teachers."

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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