A TEACHER'S PERSPECTIVE

THE BALTIMORE SUN

From: Patricia Anderson

Bel Air

The punch line of an old teaching joke is, "Teachers keep doing it until they get it right." I have written many times about teachers'salaries. I will try again, hopefully, to get it right.

Teachers are unemployed in the summers. They do not have paid vacations. They do not collect unemployment. Instead, they collect money the board ofeducation has withheld from their paychecks for 10 months -- money whose interest the board of education has used to supplement the education budget during the school year.

The average teacher's salary may very well be $36,072 because the "average" teacher in Harford County has 15 to 20 years experience on the job and five to six years of college education. We are not attracting new teachers into this profession who are going to be lifers.

Although the State Board of Education requires Maryland teachers to continue their eduction, they do not pay for it. I have spent over $4,000 in this endeavor. I call this another supplement.

I, like the "average" teacher, do not work banker's hours. I put in at least 50 hours a week. To do the job right, you cannot be teaching, planning, and doing paperwork at the same time. A fifth of my working hours supplements the education budget.

This year, in my school, there are four classrooms whose class size ranges from 29 to 35. This is something I have not experienced sincethe early 1970s. One hundred thirty-one children in an elementary school is a job for five teachers, not four. My quarter of this extra load is supplementing the education budget by about $10,000.

Let's be fair about all this. If I were paid by the hour, paid by the number of children I teach, given unemployment benefits for 10 weeks, paidfor required continuing education, reimbursed for money spent on my classroom, and given interest on my withheld paycheck, I'd be gettinganother $20,000 a year. I'd say I'm worth a 50 percent raise.

Butsine I'll probably get nothing, at least get the story straight for the general public. Try spending a day with a classroom teacher before you write about them.

AVOIDING RED INK

From: Jeffrey D. Wilson, president

Harford County Council

Bel Air

Confusion continuesregarding the county budget process with respect to so-called surpluses and the county's bond rating.

Carol L. Bowers stated in her March 10 Harford County Sun article ("Key revenue sources to drop") that "1.5 million is all that is left of $16.5 million surplus carried from last year's budget." A budget surplus is not carried; therefore, there is nothing left of the previous year's surplus because it is illegal for anything to be left of it.

The surplus is actually the general fund balance at the end of the fiscal year. This fund balancehas a Cinderella-like existence of one night only, after the closingof the county books on June 30. The next morning, the first day of the new fiscal year, that previous year's balance is gone. Why? Because the fund balance had already been built into the ensuing year's budget.

The surplus becomes, on July 1, a revenue source -- like income and property tax revenue -- to be applied within the budget. Sen. (Habern W.) Freeman, while county executive, prudently chose to applyfund balances to one-time, non-repeating capital projects. Revenue surpluses may not be carried over from year to year because the budgetmust be balanced (Charter Section 515a).

The Rehrmann administration has, from its first week in office, talked about the surplus as if it were a savings account. It is not that. It cannot be that. It isillegal to treat a surplus like that.

The surplus must be appliedto the subsequent fiscal budget. That is law (Charter Section 503a),and it is good law because it prevents an executive or council from operating an extra-budget slush fund.

There is a provision in the charter for a kind of savings account within the budget called Contingency Reserve (Charter Section 506.1) for up to 3 percent of the budget. One reason County Executive Freeman put only nominal sums in Contingency Reserve was that the previous council would have surely movedthat money into the education budget.

In early meetings with County Executive Rehrmann, I encouraged her repeatedly to discuss with the current council a policy decision to commit 1, 2 or 3 percent of the budget to Contingency Reserve. I emphasized that such a policy decision, if it were to be made, should take place prior to the introduction of the budget. The county executive has not seen fit to initiate that discussion but has, rather, pursued a policy of creating the illusion of an extra-budget savings account, thereby compromising the integrity of the budget process.

One other point needs to be made, and made repeatedly, about surpluses. In past years, there were year-end fund balances because revenues were greater than expenditures. We took in more money than we spent. This year, Harford County, again thanks to Habern Freeman's fiscal policies, will experience real fund balance of approximately $1.5 million at a time when other counties and the state of Maryland must cut millions, even hundreds of millions,of dollars merely to break even.

County Executive Rehrmann has embarked on a course of creating illusions here, too, by moving money from the capital budget to the operating budget, thus giving the appearance of a much larger fund balance (surplus). This is nothing but a shell game. For she proposes to replace real money that has been moved out of the capital budget with borrowed money. This is the equivalent of a person taking out a loan in order to put money in his savingsaccount so that his finances will look better when he applies for a mortgage.

I am embarrassed to admit that I was taken in by this shell game, but have caught on in time to oppose Bill 91-5 which proposes to move another $917,000 out of the capital budget into the operating budget so we will have a better credit rating when we go to borrow that $917,000 this fall.

The person operating the shell game tells us to keep our eye on the pea, but of course we can't. The alternative is to tell that person we don't do business that way. County Executive Rehrmann is trying to lead our county down the fiscal path that other counties and the state of Maryland have blazed into the realmof red ink.

It is time for us to say, let's do it the Harford County way, the way of realism and fiscal health.

WELCOME HOME, TROOPS

From: James F. Fretterd

Major General

State Military Department

As members of the Guard and Reserve begin returning home from Operation Desert Storm, I feel very thankful for the tremendous support that employers, both public and private sector, and civic groups have given our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

The outpouringof public support was astounding, a key factor, I believe, in the coalition's great victory in the Persian Gulf. Also, I thank the media for its fair coverage of the war and its support of our troops and their families.

Once the members of the Maryland National Guard, along with all the others in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Naval and Coast Guard Reserve, return to their communities throughout the state, I hope that their adjustment to civilian life is easy and comfortable. Our employers will play a large role in this transition.

Many Maryland corporations and local governments like Baltimore City and Prince George's County, as well as our own state government, voluntarily extended health benefits and/or paid the difference between a person's civilian and military pay during Operation Desert Storm. Consequently, I feel very confident that the men and women who served so bravely in the Persian Gulf will be well received by their former employers.

I care deeply about our returning troops, as does GovernorSchaefer. It's obvious that the great percentage of the public feelsthe same way. Upon returning home, our men and women will be anxiousto re-establish ties with their families and friends and resume their old jobs. I hope that our employers will continue supporting our nation and the members of the Armed Forces by ensuring that their jobs await them.

Any employer who has a question about veterans' re-employment rights may feel free to call Maj. Bob Danmyer, 1-301-576-6045, for more information.

PRAISE FOR DECOY CARVER

From: Barbara E . F. Gilden

Havre de Grace Decoy Museum

Your full-page article inthe Sunday, March 17, edition of The Harford County Sun, "Hundreds with decoy duck-carver a happy 90th birthday," concerning R. Madison Mitchell Sr., was one of the best and most accurate articles I have had the pleasure to read in a long time. Reading each sentence made me feel as though I was sitting next to this extraordinary man, sharing his birthday and the life he has made so special for so many people.

Writer Jodi Bizar certainly did an exceptional job in acquiring details indicative of the essence of this incredibly true gentleman. With the huge number of people attending this special event, she made her way around the crowd with uncanny finesse. This is a real reporter.

And without missing just one last thing, let me thank Geoffrey S. Baker, who contributed the pictures to the article. In the top lefthand corner, just at Mr. Mitchell's head, you can see the words MADI. . . 90, the most important section of the sign, "Happy Birthday Madison . . . 90."

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