Community College employees to lose their raises


Harford Community College employees, who received 3 percent raises in July, will lose them after Jan. 1. The college's trustees voted, 7-1, last week to rescind the raises, citing "tough economic times."

The 225 full-time employees, including faculty members, administrators and classified employees, will not be required to give back money but will receive the raises for six months instead of 12.

The raises of 4 percent that the trustees granted three vice presidents and the 5 percent raise granted the president of the college, Richard J. Pappas, will be halved.

Cutting the raises saves the college about $115,000 -- or less than 1 percent of this year's HCC operating budget of about $16 million.

By rescinding the raises, HCC also saves about $35,000 in "penalty money."

The state saddled HCC with the penalty -- actually benefits that accompany the raises -- because HCC gave employees cost-of-living raises when state employees got none.

Mr. Pappas said that cutting the raises "symbolized" the college's cooperation with state and county government.

"It says we understand that it's tough economic times," he told the board of trustees Thursday night.

As a show of unity, Mr. Pappas, who makes over $80,000 a year, said he would donate 1 percent of his remaining 2 1/2 percent raise to the Harford Community College Foundation Inc.

Board members said privately that the salary cut is being offered as an "olive branch" to County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.

Mrs. Rehrmann and other politicians, including state Sen. William H. Amoss, D-District 35A, blasted HCC for granting raises after increasing tuition last year by $13, to $56 per credit hour.

Mrs. Rehrmann said HCC's decision to halve the raises was "important symbolically" as a step toward "fiscal reality."

The executive will decide how $6 million in anticipated state cuts to the county will be passed on to HCC and other county agencies.

"It has always been my position that any belt-tightening in the county should be done evenly," Mrs. Rehrmann said.

At the same time, she said, she felt no obligation to reimburse HCC for the money it spent on employee raises.

County government employees got no cost-of-living raises.

James Galbraith, chairman of the HCC faculty council, said teachers were "not thrilled" about losing the raises but were not particularly up set about it either.

Diana Stoll, vice chairman of the classified employees council, said most employees supported the cut. "The feeling is that they would rather take a pay cut then see layoffs or furloughs," she said.

Mr. Pappas has said repeatedly that he wants to avoid cutting staff or making cuts that would harm students.

Armed with a large pad of paper on an easel and a marker, Mr. Pappas reeled off possible cuts to the college which he said could reach $2.7 million this year.

He said the college has already lost $400,000 in state aid this year and expects to lose at least $1.1 million more.

The college said last week it could handle the $1.5 million in cuts by freezing some vacancies and deferring maintenance, among other things.

Last year the college lost $1.5 million in state aid, or about 10 percent of its total budget.

"At that time we thought we had seen the worst," said Mr. Pappas.

But Mr. Pappas said the college could lose that much and more, if the state, for example, should go ahead with a proposal to stop paying Social Security for employees.

The college's yearly tab is about $350,000.

Mr. Pappas said the state could also refuse to pay about $900,000 annually in retirement benefits for college employees.

"We are in a crisis situation," he said.

Trustee Nicholas L. Gounaris cast the only dissenting vote, dismissing Mr. Pappas' predictions as "conjecture."

Even if the worst did happen, Mr. Gounaris said, the $115,000 could

not bail out the college.

But other board members, including Chairman Leland C. Sanborn, said they had a financial responsibility to rescind the raises.

"Obviously, the rules have changed since we gave the increase," Mr. Sanborn said.

"They should never have given the raises in the first place," retorted County Councilman Robert Wagner, a District E Republican.

"We have known the state cuts were coming since this time last year.

"The bottom line has been that Harford Community College is not a team player, not like the school board or the health department, which have always cooperated.

The board of trustees at the college . . . are not in the same world as we are as far as budget cuts," Mr. Wagner said.

About 30 percent of the college's budget comes from the state, about 32 percent from the county and the remainder from tuition and fees.

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