Anne Arundel County Board of Education voted Wednesday to send a $1.17 billion operating budget to County Executive Steve Schuh. The request is $7.8 million more than Superintendent George Arlotto’s proposal because of a decision to increase employee salaries to make up for years of frozen salaries and offset potential increases in school staff’s health care payments.
As reported in the Capital Gazette,
In December, Arlotto asked for $1.16 billion to pay for a salary increase for school employees to close a gap in the school system’s health care fund and to hire more teachers and support staff.
The school board and county officials allocate money for compensation, and the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County and the school board negotiate salaries and benefits.
In the last few months, Arlotto has said the health care deficit is a priority. The budget earmarks $20.5 million to close the gap. Hammond is working on a long-term plan to balance the schools’ health care budget and will request that the state allow Schuh to provide a one-time money for the fund.
School staff said they’re short about $7 million to pay medical bills through the end of this fiscal year. Arlotto warned if the deficit doesn’t get fixed, school officials may have to resort to furloughs or layoffs.
School employee unions negotiate health care plans with the school board.
The president of the teachers union, Richard Benfer, said the board’s additional salary request will make negotiations over health care easier.
“It’s inevitable that we’ll have to pay more,” he said, citing the rising costs of health care.
Teachers union leaders have said they want to see more money for salaries if their medical payments goes up.
The budget also sets aside money to hire more psychologists, special education teachers, social workers and counselors.
The school board backed Arlotto’s proposal to hire five assistant principals for elementary schools — part of a plan to hire assistant principals for more than 30 elementary schools with vacancies.
The spending plan includes money to expand an elementary school program that gives teachers more planning time as well as $6.8 million to open an elementary school in Annapolis this fall.
They also kept the money for 93 more teachers to staff a school population that has 763 more students this year than the previous year.
There are approximately 81,000 students this year, compared to about 73,000 in 2006. The school system is expected to continue to grow. Students eligible for food assistance have about doubled in the last decade. The number of students receiving English language help has about tripled.
The board also passed the $240.6 million construction budget toward upgrades for Tyler Heights, Edgewater, Richard Henry Lee, Manor View, High Point, George Cromwell, Jessup and Arnold elementary schools, and Crofton High School.
County Executive Schuh will present his version of the operating and capital budgets in May.
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