Howard County school budget approved

The Baltimore Sun

The Howard County school board has approved a $663.9 million operating budget for the coming academic year, designating $4.9 million for salaries while contract negotiations with the teachers union continue.

In addition to unanimously voting in favor of the operating budget yesterday, the eight-member board approved a $95 million capital budget.

School officials said they were able to approve the record amount of funding in the operating budget with passage of the federal stimulus package last week, which resulted in $10 million in additional funding for Howard County.

"This takes us back to where we were," Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said. "It is a welcome infusion."

Both budgets now go to County Executive Ken Ulman, who can make cuts. For final approval, the spending plans then go to the County Council, which can restore money removed by Ulman if members find a way to pay for it.

Cousin called the budget "prudent, but still effective," adding that the plan is aimed at protecting resources for the classroom.

"It makes sure that teachers are able to work in the best environment that they can," Cousin said.

The $4.9 million set aside for salaries would represent a 1 percent pay increase across the board for all school system employees, schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan said.

Ann DeLacy, president of the Howard County Education Association, the organization that represents a majority of school workers, declined to discuss details of the salary negotiations. The union suspended talks earlier this year pending the completion of the stimulus package. Both sides said last week that they were ready to resume negotiations.

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