Harford's teachers don't like the new operating budget Top-of-the-scale employees won't be getting a raise for 2nd year in a row.


Harford County teachers say they are disappointed with the $191 million operating budget approved by the County Council last night even though it means about half the county's government employees and teachers will get raises.

"I'm very happy for the teachers who will get step increases, but I'm also disappointed. This is the second year in a row I won't be getting a pay increase," said Jean Thomas, president-elect of the Harford County Education Association and a teacher at Magnolia Middle School.

That's because veteran teachers like Ms. Thomas and long-term county employees, who are at the top of the pay scale, don't qualify for step increases.

Step raises are pay raises based on performance or merit that are given after an annual job performance review. Each step increase represents about a 3.5 percent pay raise.

The council did not add extra money for Harford Community College because college administrators had said they would give raises this year even if no other county employees got them. The raises will be funded with money from this spring's tuition increase. The college's enrollment has increased.

The council also voted to leave the county's property tax rates unchanged for the ninth consecutive year. The tax rate for the fiscal year beginning July 1 will be $2.73 per $100 of assessed value for Harford residents who do not live in municipalities, and $2.34 per $100 of assessed value for residents of municipalities.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's originally proposed a $188.6 million operating budget for fiscal 1992 that included no money for any pay raises. Council members object ed, noting that county employees received no raises last year, and Mrs. Rehrmann eventually compromised.

The extra money came from departmental savings this year and revenue projections that were better than expected, according to County Treasurer James M. Jewell.

Councilman Robert S. Wagner, R-District E, was the only council member to oppose the raises, but he did vote to approve the final budget.

The budget passed unanimously by the seven-member council would leave about an $8.9 million surplus.

Mrs. Rehrmann has said at least 5 percent of the county's operating budget must be saved to improve Harford's financial picture for bond rating houses. But teachers argued this year that some of that money should be used to give 3 percent cost-of-living raises to all employees.

Among the other changes the council members made to Mrs. Rehrmann's spending proposal were:

* Providing $50,000 to hire two more art teachers for the school system.

* Cutting about $400,000 from the solid waste fund, which includes the recycling program.

The council also approved a capital budget of $68.3 million.

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