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At an hourlong meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Calvert County Board of Education approved both the fiscal 2014 budget and a new contract for Calvert County Public Schools support staff.

The contract includes a 1 percent cost of living salary adjustment, or COLA; a salary scale compression to allow employees to reach their highest salaries faster; one step increase; and a pensionable salary adjustment of 1 percent for employees no longer eligible for steps.

The fiscal 2014 budget includes a decrease of $888,096 in state aid and a $5 million increase in county appropriations, for which CCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said he is asking the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners.

“I have received positive indications from some of the county commissioners and less than positive indications from others,” Smith said.

The total budget as Smith presented Wednesday totaled $196,698,454 — a $4.1 million increase from fiscal 2013. Smith said the majority of increases from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2014 are a result of contract settlements between the board of education’s negotiating team and the teachers, support staff and administration unions.

Smith said the school system was also carrying over a fund balance of $1.5 million from fiscal 2013. He said getting into a habit of using savings from one year to fund another year “is not a good idea,” but to close contracts, it was important for employees to receive a raise.

Smith reiterated that the raises were also being funded as a result of about 60 senior employees accepting a retirement incentive and their positions being filled by younger, less expensive staff.

“It’s significant turnover when younger employees go into those jobs. … They’ll come in at lower [salaries],” Smith said. He said he was also funding the raises by not offering additional professional development days for extra compensation.

When Smith initially presented his fiscal 2014 budget Feb. 7, former board of education candidate Culver Ladd requested he add money to the budget for an organic chemistry lab that Ladd said could be run between CCPS and College of Southern Maryland. Smith said he had since learned that while CSM was interested in helping to staff the program, it had no funds set aside to help pay for the lab itself.

Board of education member Tracy McGuire asked if the county commissioners could make changes to the budget once it was in their hands. Smith said while the commissioners did not have to give the additional $5 million, they could not make changes to how the school system dollars were being spent.

“Ultimately, it’s your decision how those categories look,” Smith told the board of education, continuing that the additional $5 million “is what our school system needs, and it’s what this county demands.”

Board of education member Dawn Balinski said she hoped the commissioners knew that with employees receiving a raise, that money “should bring some economic development to this county.”

ldukes@somdnews.com