Anne Arundel school board adopts budget

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education adopted Wednesday a $977 million operating budget approved by the County Council that provides funding for more than 100 new teachers but does not include employee pay raises.

The budget also provides $12 million for a state-mandated, per-pupil requirement that wasn't funded last year as well as an additional $2 million to pay for instruction materials, $11.5 million for a new state pension requirement and an additional $3 million for transportation.


The school board approved the operating budget by an 8-1 vote, with board member Solon Webb opposed.

"I believe this operating budget is further evidence of our school system's ongoing commitment to help our employees and our parents where we can, in this case in the classroom," board President Patricia Nalley said in a statement. "I would love to be able to provide our hard-working employees with raises, but our work with the County Council has resulted in relief in other key areas as we continue to navigate our way through this difficult economy."


The school board had earlier approved a $986 million operating budget for fiscal year 2013 that included $33.8 million to comply with its negotiated compensation agreements with its four bargaining units, which County Executive John R. Leopold did not fund in his budget proposal to the council. The unions represent employees including teachers, administrators and office personnel.

The council agreed in May to fund $579.6 million for the operating budget for fiscal year 2013; the amount is $23.5 million more than the board approved for fiscal year 2012, but about $18 million less than the board requested for 2013. The operating budget includes state, county and local funds.

The school board is in negotiations with its four bargaining units and must have a contract in place when the fiscal

school year begins July 1. Because the increases the school board requested were not approved by the council, the school board voted to approve the fiscal 2013 terms of employment for all employees.


"We're doing the stopgap measure, but negotiations will continue and then hopefully we will be able to come to some sort of an agreement to replace the terms of employment," said the schools chief operating officer, Alex Szachnowicz.

Teachers and union officials argued that the school board should have rejected the council's budget and requested that the board ask the council to reconsider its allocations. The school system cannot reallocate money without council approval. "They have abundantly made it clear to us that they are not going to do that," Szachnowicz said.

"If you adopt conditions of employment for [teachers union] employees that do not include a salary increase, it will be a direct affront to the local educators who serve our students," Bill Jones, executive director of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, said in a prepared statement to the school board. "Moreover, you will renege on promises made over the past few years.

"We have members who have lost tens of thousands in salary promised to them in ratified salary scales," Jones added. "In two-teacher households, the impact has doubled. More commendatory words and promises of doing better in the future are not sufficient; especially when virtually every district around us is settling contracts with teacher raises."

Diana Peckham, an English teacher at Northeast High School, also expressed disappointment with the school board's vote.

"The board has told everybody where they want to pick their battles," said Peckham. "The budget will go through as it is, teachers won't have step increases or cost-of-living increases, and education is the foundation for everything that happens in the county."

Earlier this school year, the state school board ruled that the county did not comply with a state-mandated, per-pupil requirement known as maintenance of effort. Of the $12 million the council provided to address the requirement, $4.7 million will be used to pay for 66 school-based positions.

Those school-based positions include 40 classroom teachers, five special education teachers, five English as second language teachers, two performing and visual arts teachers and two science, technology, engineering and math teachers. The other school-based positions include guidance counselors and special education assistants.


The school board had earlier requested, and the council approved, $4.2 million for 62 other teaching positions.

"Districtwide, it does not drop our teacher-to-student ratio very far," said Szachnowicz. "One hundred-something is such a small number compared to 77,000," the projected school system enrollment.

"But to those schools that are getting an additional teacher, it's going to make a tremendous difference," said Szachnowicz, who added that the school system will look to place the new teachers in schools with high teacher-student ratios, what the school system calls "hot spots."

"We're going to be able to identify those most critical hot spots we have across the county, mostly at the elementary level," Szachnowicz added. "We're going to be able to give that school an additional teacher in that specific grade level that is over the ratio."

The school board also voted 9-0 to adopt the $134.7 million capital budget that the council approved. The amount is $63.5 million less than the school board requested.

Among the items the school board proposed that the county did not fund for the coming school year: construction for Rolling Knolls Elementary ($14.3 million), Benfield Elementary ($13 million) and West


Elementary ($8.2 million). The council did provide $2.7 million for aging schools, over $2 million more than the school board requested.

The meeting was the last for departing board member Eugene Peterson, who has served for 10 years, and student member Jillian Buck.