Union urges school board not to yield to county' executive's command
by virginia terhune
"You shared with the public ... that you were told not to include salary increases, and instead of taking a stand for the employees you supposedly value, you crumbled under political pressure," said Cheryl Bost, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, at the board's March 11 meeting.
Bost was referring to a comment by board president JoAnn Murphy during a Feb. 14 meeting that County Executive Jim Smith indicated to her and board vice president Ed Parker that Smith would not be budgeting cost-of-living allowances for any county employee, including teachers.
Teachers at the March 11 meeting crowded into a center aisle, silently raising red-and-white signs that read, "Teachers deserve a fair salary. Tell Jim Smith."
Some also laughed at the irony in the board's decision to postpone discussion about the details of Superintendent Joe Hairston's next contract, which the board recently renewed.
"The FY '09 budget shows disrespect for the education employees you've taken an oath to serve," Bost said. "We just hope you don't continue this disrespect by approving a salary increase for Dr. Hairston's new contract when we face pay cuts."
As part of its push for increases, the union is planning a rally April 1 outside Smith's office in the courthouse in Towson, according to the union's Web site.
Smith budgeted $12 million for step and longevity increases and $7 million for increased health costs next year in the school system. The union says that will benefit some individuals but not help others who stand to lose money due to rising out-of-pocket costs.
Smith recently reiterated his position not to budget cost-of-living increases due to the sluggish economy and dwindling state aid.
"Funding a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for teachers and other county employees would increase the budget by approximately $14 million, equivalent to a 2.3-cent increase in the county property tax rate," Smith wrote in a March 4 letter posted on the county Web site.
However, Bost argues that the county has surpluses and that Smith can fund the raises without raising property taxes, in part by stemming what she called a recent flow of money from the operating budget to capital projects.
Failure to do something will only add to the county's relatively high turnover rate as teachers migrate to better-paying counties, she said.
E-mail Virginia Terhune at Virginia Terhune@patuxent.com