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Want more time to study contracts

By JASON BABCOCK

Staff writer

The St. Mary’s County commissioners decided Tuesday to put off until next week approving a new budget for the board of education, which includes pay raises for most teachers, administrators and other staff.

The commissioners said they didn’t get information on negotiated agreements with school employees in time and wanted to review the documents in more detail.

The school board and employee unions signed the agreements last Wednesday and sent supporting documents to county government staff on Friday, said Superintendent Michael Martirano.

The county commissioners are providing $89.9 million in local dollars to the school system’s $189.2 million budget, which starts July 1. The local dollars are 4 percent more than required by state funding formulas.

Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said he was “dismayed” that the board of education documents arrived on the Friday before the Tuesday meeting. “You sort of painted us into a corner sending this stuff over Friday,” he said.

“I’m still having a hard time right now. Maybe the numbers are right, I don’t know,” he said.

“I concur with Commissioner Morgan,” said Commissioner Cindy Jones (R). She said her office computer did not connect online Monday “so this information I am now seeing for the first time.”

Commissioner Dan Morris (R) said he was out of town for a few days. “I just don’t want to make a rash decision,” he said.

“We have followed your calendar. We have hit every marker. We’ve hit every deadline,” Martirano said. “We did report this information to your staff when we had it.”

The commissioners have until June 30 to approve the budget, which provides step increases for most school employees.

Morgan, Morris and Jones voted to table the budget’s approval until next week. Commission President Jack Russell (D) and Commissioner Larry Jarboe voted no and were ready to vote on the budget.

Martirano said it was an “absolutely miraculous feat” that the negotiations were completed between the teachers, administrators and classified employees unions before the fiscal year expires at the end of this month.

Morgan criticized school administrator pay raises last year that were made for added duties and new job titles. “Are we going to have another surprise?” Morgan asked.

“There will be changes in the organization after July 1” to align with mandated changes required by Race to the Top, Martirano said. “There will be moving of chairs on the deck. I can’t stress my people out so heavily they leave the organization.” He said there is a “tsunami” of state reforms to adjust to. Across the state, “people are jumping ship. They are leaving in droves for retirement,” he said.

In general across St. Mary’s County, “I think the board recognizes the turbulence out there,” Morgan said.

The new budget increases school principal salaries, Martirano said. In minimum salaries for principals, Calvert County ranked fourth in the state. Charles County ranked sixth and St. Mary’s County ranked 17th, he said. In maximum salaries, Calvert ranked sixth. Charles ranked seventh, while St. Mary’s ranked 14th.

Now St. Mary’s will rank between Calvert and Charles counties for principal salaries with the new budget, Martirano said.

“It is very refreshing to see we are in between Charles and Calvert,” said Commission President Jack Russell (D), “that we are in the middle now.”

jbabcock@somdnews.com