Teacher bonuses get approved, again, by Harford County Council

Harford's teachers have been cleared to finally get the bonuses set aside for them by County Executive David Craig, after the county council approved a $2.1 million appropriation for the bonus money Tuesday.

Teachers were supposed to get the $1,250 bonus along with all other county employees by the end of 2011, but Craig vetoed that bill after the Harford County Education Association teachers' union tried to get more control over the funding distribution.

The county board of education finalized a collective bargaining agreement with HCEA on Feb. 13, according to the council bill. The deadline to move on the original bill was March 31.

Most of the council members seemed eager to move on from the tumultuous episode, but Councilman Dion Guthrie slammed the council's involvement in the bonuses issue by cutting the bonuses into two distributions and said it was potentially legally problematic.

Guthrie said the debate was between the school board and the teachers' unions.

"It's not a collective bargaining process before the county council," he said. "The county council shouldn't inject itself into the collective bargaining process... Consequently, we injected ourselves in this process twice and we got burned twice."

"We are a third party and we don't belong in the middle of those negotiations," he said.

In response, Council President Billy Boniface asked council attorney Charles Kearney to look into the legality of the council injecting itself into such a situation.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti said she also wants clarification.

Councilman Dick Slutzky said he was glad to see the bill finally moving forward, adding he would have liked to pass it around Christmas so teachers could get it along with the other employees.

"As they say, better late than never, and I am glad we are able to come to terms and be able to do this, and everyone receives the bonus at a time it will be able to help them with their financials," Slutzky said.

Ryan Burbey, a frequent teachers' advocate, and HCEA president Randy Cerveny also thanked the council for the vote on teachers' behalf.

"This money will definitely help them out a lot," Burbey said. "I do appreciate this gesture."

Cerveny said he appreciated that the council and county executive believe teachers deserve additional compensation.

"I am very thankful that we have now finally gotten to this point," he said.

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