Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti said she is concerned about teacher salaries, but she challenged Burbey to create a budgeting and contractual process that gives the council more opportunity to address teachers' issues.

"Teachers make requests, but their requests are not congruent with their employment contract," she said.

After Burbey said HCEA hopes to negotiate a contract with the school system "very shortly," Lisanti replied: "So we've already missed the deadline."

Burbey said Superintendent Tomback has presented "a fair budget" and it would not make sense for HCEA to negotiate until June.

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"I still contend it's a game of chicken and it's at the expense of our teachers," Lisanti told him.

Council President Billy Boniface agreed, explaining the council does not really have a role to play in the budget process until later in the spring, long after the school budget has been presented to the county executive, who can in turn reduce the amount of county funding requested.

"The problem is a very difficult one and one that needs to be addressed or [there] has to be something done earlier in the process," Boniface said.

Burbey said Lisanti did raise an important point, that the HCEA and council should be cooperating more.

Before the situation gets "charged up" in the spring, perhaps everyone can come together with a plan, Burbey said.

"I don't want to be mistaken. I am here to get money for teachers but I am also here to educate you and to hopefully get the money that the school system needs to just go on," he added.

Slutzky noted costs of living are higher everywhere, and teachers in places like Montgomery County cannot afford to live there, either.

Aegis staff member Bryna Zumer contributed to this story.