Teachers reluctantly ratify wage agreement


County teachers gritted their teeth and voted 1,244 to 306 last week to ratify a salary agreement that will give longevity increases to eligible teachers and 2.5 percent raises to those at the top of their salary scales.

Teachers "endorsed the agreement with a sense of discouragement and depression," said Karen Dunlop, vice president of the Howard County Education Association (HCEA) and a Hammond High School teacher.

The agreement fell far short of the 6 percent salary and 2 percent longevity increases called for in the teachers' three-year contract, which runs through 1992-1993.

Teachers were frustrated and angry when budget cuts forced the school board to deny them similar increases promised for this year. They received no raises.

The school board reached a tentative agreement Thursday night with the last school employee bargaining unit, for secretaries and instructional assistants.

That agreement cleared the way for a $1.4 million supplemental budget request that Superintendent Michael E. Hickey sent to the county government Friday.

Hickey's letter to County Executive Charles I. Ecker said the school system would use part of the $5.2 million in additional state aid to cover the remainder of the $3.8 million it will need to cover salary increases.

No breakdown was available Friday, but the supplement covers a 2.5 percent increase for teachers, principals and supervisors, secretaries and instructional assistants at the top of their salary scales, plus longevity increases that average about 3 percent; and 3 percent across-the-board raises for school maintenance and custodial workers.

At Glenelg High School, the faculty voted against accepting the contract.

"For what this county should be able to do for its teachers and what was offered, I'm not going to sign on and say it's OK," said social studies teacher James Mundy. "It's not OK."

James R. Swab, HCEA president, said, "The current economic reality is reflected in acceptance of this agreement. It does not reflect the worth of teachers."

Ecker said Friday that he could not comment on the school board's supplemental request until he sees it.

But he stuck to his no-new-taxes guns, saying he would not recommend a tax increase to cover the request.

The executive put $2.7 million for longevity increases for school employees into the budget he sent the County Council April 20.

His allocation for the school system, $139.5 million, fell $3.5 million short of the school board's request.

In county Budget Director Raymond S. Wacks' assessment, the school board may have $11 million more to spend in 1992-1993 than it has this year.

The county's actual allocation to schools this year is about $133 million after midyear budget cuts that were forced by reductions in state aid to local governments.

Ecker's request is $6 million over the actual amount for this fiscal year, and the school system will have $5.2 million in additional state aid, Wacks said.

Neither Hickey nor school system budget officer David S. White could be reached for comment.

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