Some of the St. Mary’s County commissioners took issue Tuesday with some pay increases for school board employees on their way to approving a routine budget amendment.
And during a budget work session Monday, the commissioners reviewed the school board’s near-term building plans and pushed back funding for a facility to teach students who might otherwise drop out of school. It is the second year in a row a new building for a second Fairlead Academy has been pushed out of the budget.
In reviewing the budget amendment to cover various personnel costs Tuesday, Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) citing pay raises for teachers and administrators. “And we’re paying bonuses” to school employees, he said.
Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said they were not bonuses. He called it “compensating individuals.” Last July, four school directors saw their job titles and responsibilities change, and received $3,000 to $4,000 in raises for the extra duties.
Preliminary contracts negotiated earlier this month would give teachers and other school employees step increases in their pay for the next fiscal year; those step increases were not funded during the last two years. Negotiations for salary and other issues with a new union for school administrators have not yet been completed.
“There’s something in this business that’s just not making sense,” Morgan said.
Martirano said the school system produced $4 million in savings by cutting 51 jobs two years ago, with 30 of them at the administration level. “And yet the work had to continue,” he said.
“Individuals need to be compensated. There’s overtime, there’s contracted services, there’s annual leave,” he said.
Commissioner Dan Morris (R) said the school system already paid $362,000 to fund salary, overtime, banking service charges, school security measures and another $241,470 to fund leave by the time the commissioners were asked to approve them. The commissioners, after the fact, approved the budget changes.
“I found that to be out of line personally. There’s a time and place. You’ve already spent the money. It kind of leaves us in a situation,” Morris said.
“It’d be nice to know up front — that’s all I’m saying,” he said.
“We have people facing furloughs, 20 percent of their incomes” would be cut, he said, if federal budget sequestration hits, affecting civil service workers at Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Military contracts with civilian firms will also be cut unless Congress comes up with an agreement to replace the sequester, due to go into effect Friday.
“What are we doing making payouts when there’s sequestration coming?” Morgan asked later Tuesday. Civil servants and defense contractors are being asked to do more work for less pay, he said.
“And the school board’s sort of ‘that’s someone else’s problem,’” Morgan said. “Everyone out here is being asked to do more with less.”
The Fairlead Academy has 230 students from ninth through 12th grade, with most at a former elementary school on Great Mills Road and others in trailers at the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center in Leonardtown. A $1,246,000 request to create a complex for a second Fairlead Academy at the Forrest center was proposed for fiscal 2014, but was pushed back this week to fiscal 2015 by the commissioners. There was little discussion about it Monday.
Martirano said later Tuesday it’s a program he plans to continue to keep local high school graduation rates improving. With no second building coming soon, “it’ll be tighter,” he said. “It’s disappointing, but I understand.” Ultimately, he said he aims for a total capacity of 400 students, 200 at each Fairlead Academy.