The Baltimore County Board of Education voted unanimously early Tuesday evening to approve a midyear supplemental budget appropriation of nearly $50 million to pay for systemwide raises for fiscal year 2023.
Money for the raises will come from the general fund until a permanent source is determined. Additionally, the board voted to appropriate about $2.7 million from its food service budget to give “enhanced compensation” to the Baltimore County Public Schools AFSCME bargaining units in the Office of Food and Nutrition Services.
“I 100% support this,” board member Kathleen Causey said. “It is absolutely urgent that we do this.”
Hours before the meeting, the board moved its meeting to online-only, cut most of its agenda and canceled public comment. The meeting, which went from more than 15 agenda items to two, was limited to online due to “several unplanned board member absences,” said Gboyinde Onijala, a school system spokesperson. Onijala said some absences were due to illness.
Personnel appointments and a budget allocation transfer were the only agenda items on which action was taken. More information concerning the other agenda items, which included public comment and information on a state capital budget request and the Office of Internal Audit’s Year-End Update for fiscal year 2022, will be forthcoming, the school system said in a news release.
While board members Felicia Stolusky and Russell Kuehn did not vote, all other board members voted to approve the budget transfer for the pay raises for unionized and nonunionized employees.
The board’s vote is necessary for tentative agreements with county unions to move forward toward finalization.
The budget transfer grants raises to each bargaining unit, including the Council of Administrative & Supervisory Employees, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, the Education Support Professionals of Baltimore County and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The teachers association, better known as TABCO, learned that it would see the largest raises for teachers in the region this year. AFSCME-represented employees, including bus drivers and custodial staff, would receive $15 as the minimum entry wage, nearly $3 more than Maryland’s current minimum wage.
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AFSCME staff representative Courtney Jenkins declined to speak on specifics surrounding the agreement and said the union is waiting for the board to sign it.
TABCO’s tentative agreement with the school system outlines a cost-of-living adjustment and a transition to a new pay scale. The scale will guarantee that raises are spread fairly across the teacher landscape and that educators reach maximum salaries five years sooner. The average increases for members would be nearly $5,800. New teachers with a bachelor’s degree would see their starting salary go up by $4,000; by fiscal year 2026, new teachers would start out making $60,579, meeting requirements for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
TABCO President Cindy Sexton said such raises will boost teacher retention and recruitment. This comes at a time when Maryland school systems are still struggling to find teachers for classrooms ahead of the upcoming school year.
“The salary compression is a historic win. Educators will be increasing their earnings,” Sexton said. “It shows a commitment to our educators.”
Sexton said the supplemental budget appropriation will go next to the Baltimore County Council. Subsequently, TABCO members will vote to finalize the agreement.
Causey asked Christopher Hartlove, the school system’s chief financial office, to see whether he could ask the council to vote on the budget transfer sooner, saying she saw the item on the council’s October agenda.
“We are anxious for the vote to go through,” she said. “It’s all about what’s best for our children.”