The Teachers Association of Baltimore County yesterday rejected a contract amendment that would have cut their annual salaries by one-third of 1 percent and saved the school system $1.3 million.
By a slim margin, 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent, the teachers union said no to the school board proposal to take a pay cut -- about two-thirds of a day's pay for most employees. As a result, teachers could be furloughed.
The actual vote was 2,313 against the proposal and 2,214 for the proposal.
More than 81 percent of TABCO's membership voted. Ed Veit, the union's president, said it was "the highest voter response in the association's 75-year history."
"It's significant to us that we had the members that excited or interested -- 2,300 teachers are ready to do the same thing," he said.
The vote further complicates a messy situation with the late-winter snow having jeopardized the 10-day spring break, causing hard feelings within the school system. Mr. Veit conceded some teachers probably voted their feelings on spring break and furloughs rather than the real issue: "Do you want a pay cut?"
Schools Superintendent Stuart Berger and the board had said teachers would be furloughed retroactively, for the two snow days in February, if the union rejected its pro- posal.
The Board of Education agreed last night to a proposal by Dr. Berger to furlough the teachers for one day.
"The [TABCO] vote saddened me," Dr. Berger told the board. "In an attempt to say one more time . . . that the Board of Education is bending over backward to become accommodating, I ask that you drop from the calendar the date of Feb. 16 and furlough them for one day."
School board President Rosalie Hellman said she was "very disappointed" by the TABCO vote.
"I can tell you that the board wanted very much not to furlough teachers this year," she said.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Veit said, "TABCO will challenge any salary reduction or furlough which the Board of Education tries to impose." The main challenge, he said, will be through grievances filed "as soon as possible."
The union already has sent the board a letter asking that a waiver of the 180-day rule be requested immediately, as Dr. Berger said he would do this week.
"Such a timely request would allow a response [from the State Board of Education] which could provide other options for the spring vacation," Mr. Veit said.
On Tuesday, Dr. Berger said schools would be open April 5 and 6 and June 21 and 22 to make up for the four snow days.
The April days were part of the spring holiday, but were designated as snow days.