The Baltimore County school board unanimously approved last night a $1.32 billion operating budget proposal that includes raises for teachers for the next fiscal year.
The board's vote followed public expressions of support for the budget proposed by Superintendent Joe A. Hairston last month. The county PTA council, employee unions and area advisory council leadership spoke in favor of the spending plan, with several indicating they would push for it with county officials.
"This will be the most difficult budget that the county executive has prepared during his term," said Donald I. Mohler III, a spokesman for County Executive James T. Smith Jr., alluding to the difficult economic times the country is facing.
Mohler again emphasized that "this is a year for maintenance budgets," not new programs and initiatives.
The school board's proposal represents about a 6 percent increase, or about $74 million, over the current budget. The proposed budget does not include any new programs but does call for nearly $23.5 million for employee pay raises and $11.6 million for step increases.
The lack of raises in the current spending plan sparked a lengthy conflict and teacher protests last year.
"We know during tight financial times it's a small increase, but a much-needed increase," said Cheryl Bost, president of the teachers union, referring to the salary increases in the board's adopted budget.
The budget proposal approved last night also allocates money for almost 100 new positions, among them 42 teaching positions and six additional instructors for English-language learners to account for enrollment growth.