Baltimore County principals and assistant principals will forfeit about $375,000 in benefits this year to help the strapped school system reduce its estimated $10 million budget shortfall.
In a goodwill gesture announced yesterday, the executive board of the administrators' organization voted unanimously to give up annuity payments worth 2 percent of an employee's gross salary, starting Oct. 1.
The move by the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees (CASE) -- which will affect about 400 administrators -- took some by surprise.
"It's gone already?" asked Dulaney principal Richard Gudel, who had not heard about the decision until contacted by a reporter. "I think that's unfortunate, personally . . . but it's probably not out of line. It's a small gesture of good faith toward the new [acting] superintendent and the County Council."
Until declaring a recent truce, school officials squabbled with the council over the school budget. Earlier this year, the council had shown its displeasure with the annuity by targeting it in cuts totaling $4.4 million, but the school system balked and retained the benefit.
CASE did not bargain for the benefit, which averages about $1,200 a year; it was, in fact, offered by the school board as an incentive to those who manage the schools. Former superintendent Stuart Berger was a proponent of the benefit, first enacted in 1994.
The benefit is paid monthly to a brokerage firm that manages the annuity, said CASE executive assistant Thomas Regan. Employees cannot take it until they leave or retire from the school system.
CASE president Kenneth Burch said he did not know what to expect when he proposed the give-back to his group's 15-member executive board. The response, however, was favorable. "I did not have anybody who said, 'That's a bad idea,' " said Mr. Burch, principal of Western School of Technology and Environmental Science at Catonsville.
"It was a very positive approach: We can do that so that the school system doesn't have to find every penny" of the shortfall, he said, adding that the move was voluntary and that acting superintendent Anthony G. Marchione did not ask the group to make it.
The hundreds of school administrators represented by CASE will be informed of the give-back this week, said Mr. Regan. The decision does not have to be approved by CASE members.
The portion of the annuity paid from July to October will not be returned, so each administrator will retain about $300 of the $1,200 annual payment.
"I really think this was a tremendous gesture on the part of CASE," said Robert J. Kemmery, principal of Eastern Technical High School in Essex. "At the same time, there are members who are [working] 70 to 80 hours a week. I hope it doesn't harm us as a group."
Dr. Marchione said in a letter to CASE, "your decision . . . demonstrates more than anything else you could have done the commitment administrators have to the schools."
Only school-based administrators receive the annuity. The approximately 200 other CASE members in the schools' central offices do not get it.