Harford County Public Schools employees could be getting a 1 percent raise in the next school year if Harford County Executive David Craig and the Harford County Council approve enough money to fund the raises.

The Harford Board of Education approved budget amendments at its meeting Monday night totaling $1,447,643 in additional costs. The amended budget request for 2014, which also includes an additional $16,210 for the proposed food services budget, will be $444,242,403, and some of the changes approved directly affect salary packages the school system has negotiated with its employee unions.

The board unanimously passed the budget amendment that would give a COLA and step increase to all eligible employees. The school board and the Harford County Education Association, or HCEA, reached an agreement on the COLA and step increases, that is typically about 3 percent, on Feb. 28.

HCEA represents more than 3,200 employees, mostly teachers and counselors. The school system has about 5,300 employees total and all will receive similar increases, Lindsay Bilodeau, a school system media specialist, said Tuesday.

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The estimated cost of the step raises is $4.8 million and the estimated cost of a 1 percent COLA is $2.9 million, for a total of $7.7 million, Bilodeau said.

All of this additional money is being requested from Harford County. Based on the amendments the board approved Monday, the additional money the board is requesting from the county next school year is $22,636,715, as all of the $1.4 million in additional spending is requested from the county.

The board also approved a health care holiday premium of $876,061 from the excess reserve to offset employee annual contributions, as well as $150,000 each for an estimated increase in dental care and health care cost increases for 2013.

That will involve transferring $2,489,315 to the fund for other post-employment benefits.

Another $1,163,529 was also transferred to the 2013 OPEB fund for excess costs in dependent care, flex medical services and Medicare Part D drug subsidy.

Push for longer lunches

Ryan Burbey, president of HCEA, told the board he was not discussing finances for once but instead urged the board to give students longer lunch periods.

He said he started a petition to get students a 30-minute lunch in all schools, noting that in many schools lunch period is down to 20 or 25 minutes.

"It really represents a basic restriction on their ability to function as human beings," Burbey said. "I believe it truly is a human rights issue."

"We've scalped away at lunches to the point that some schools right now have less than 20 minutes of real lunch time," he said.

Gifted and talented

Board member Alysson Krchnavy said she was at an event honoring people who teach gifted-and-talented classes statewide, and noted every teacher except for the one from Harford County only taught at one school.

The Harford teacher, meanwhile, was shared by two or three schools.

"It's amazing that we have the dedicated teachers we have, that will [go from school to school] and still be the best in the state," she said.

Board member Bob Frisch said since prospects do not seem to be improving financially, the school system may need to re-evaluate its own financial situation.

"One of those issues is transportation," he said. "It's a considerable amount of money we spend on transportation, in excess of $30 million a year."