A classroom at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia.
A classroom at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia. (BSMG file)

Unions representing Howard County public schools teachers, administrators and staff have reached tentative contracts with the school system.

None of the contracts with the Howard County Education Association, the Howard County Administrators Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contain a cost-of-living adjustment and come amid what schools Superintendent Michael Martirano called “a very, very challenging budget cycle.”

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“The teachers and staff are the backbone of our organization,” Martirano said. “I was not satisfied … with what we had to do.”

All of the unions received a pay increase for the first year of their two-year contracts and all employee health benefits will be maintained through 2020. The teacher’s union will also establish a benefits advisory committee to make recommendations in ensuring quality health care for all employees. The school system’s health-care fund has a $50 million deficit.

All three agreements cover the 2018-2019 school year “with limited openers for the 2019-2020 school year.” The contract wording means employee benefits will not be open for discussion but salaries and other economic provisions will be opened, according to Martirano.

“It was a compromise,” said Colleen Morris, president of the 6,200-member teachers union. “We have a $50 million deficit and so the [school] board is making some very difficult decisions.”

For teachers with certification credentials, raises will range from $100 to $1,000, Morris said.

The raises are based on what is known as a half-step in previously established salary tables. However, not all teachers will receive a raise.

“We have a huge amount of teachers not on a step program,” since they have reached to top of the salary tables, Morris said.

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Edward Cosentino, president of the administrators association, said the union has “healthy compromises” with the school system.

“We feel that it was fair given the budget constraints,” Cosentino said.

The 260 association members, who are either school administrators and other certificated school and system leaders, will receive a half-step increase ranging from $1,000 to $1,500.

Not all administrators will receive a raise if they are at the top of the pay scale, Cosentino said.

Administrators association members also will get an additional personal leave day, bringing the annual total to four days.

Robert Coleman, president of the county and municipal employees union, said that most of the unionized employees will receive a raise as they are still in the pay scale.

The county and municipal employees union has about 300 members who work in custodial, maintenance, grounds and warehouse or the audio-visual department.

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County and municipal employees members received an additional personal day, bringing their total to three.

“The economic situation in the county is deplorable for us, there’s no money,” Coleman said. “So we got what we got.”

Union member voting on the contracts will be held in the coming weeks.

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