Frederick County teachers in line to get raises -- Gazette.Net







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While the Frederick County Board of Education is still negotiating over salaries with the county’s teachers, they will have a larger pool from which to offer raises.

In a series of votes on Wednesday, the school board added $3.2 million to their proposed budget for staff raises.

The board also did away with a plan to require the majority of school employees to take one day of unpaid leave in the next academic year. The proposal would have saved the school system about $1.5 million.

Wednesday’s vote established a $521.9-million proposed schools budget for fiscal 2013. Of that, $6.8 million is dedicated to salary increases.

In general, a 1 percent salary increase for Frederick County schools employees costs about $3.3 million, according to school system budget officer Diane Penn.

The school board is expected to adopt a final fiscal 2013 budget June 13.

Frederick County school board member Jean Smith said it was important to give competitive salaries to teachers who have gone three years without cost-of-living pay raises.

Since March, teachers have been working to the rule — meaning they work only the hours for which they are paid — over their pay.

“It’s expensive to train these teachers and we are going to lose them,” Smith said.

The salary resource pool serves as a placeholder, while the school board continues salary negotiations with its three employee unions.

Until Wednesday, the school board had allocated $5.1 million to employees’ salary increases — less than the $10.8 million that schools superintendent Theresa Alban had recommended in her proposed budget in January. Alban’s plan would have given all school staff a raise of 2 to 3 percent.

While the school board initially said it lacked the resources to fulfill that request without raising class sizes, members decided Wednesday to shift money from other sources. The board directed $2.4 million from the planned Frederick Classical Charter School and another $800,000 saved through internal cutbacks and lower utility costs to the salary pool.

While the school board majority supported these transfers, board members April Miller and Brad Young voted against them in several votes. School board member James C. Reeder, Jr. was absent.

Young said he did not want to approve changes that may lead to future budget cuts. While the Frederick Classical Charter School has not received permission to open this fall, if the school receives permission to open next fall the school system would still have to come up with that annual payment and may have to make cuts to find the money, Young said.

He also was concerned about the reallocation of one-time savings of $800,000 to the salary pool, where it would be used to pay recurring expenses.

“If we are going to be giving raises, it will have to be from a sustainable source,” Young said.

Officials are hoping that by their next meeting, they will know for sure if the Board of County Commissioners will give them a one-time funding of $1.6 million, which could help address some immediate needs.

School officials are considering investing the one-time money in technology, including new school bus radios ($1 million), replacing the oldest year of computers ($1.4 million) and replacing some of the computers more than two years old ($3.7 million).

In June, school board members also expect to discuss plans to spend money to relieve overcrowding at Urbana Elementary.

Students at the school, at 111 percent capacity, lose between 15 and 20 minutes of instructional time each day while they wait to use the school bathroom.

While school officials are working on a long-term solution for the school, parents have been asking for a temporary solution, such as bringing in a special 12-room portable classroom, which — unlike single portables — has its own bathrooms.

Becca Clark, a parent at the school, spoke to the board on Wednesday and urged board members not to forget about the needs of Urbana Elementary.

“We need a Band-Aid to get us between now and then,” Clark told the school board on Wednesday.