Local: Education

Montgomery County teachers set to get 3.4-percent raise

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Local,Maryland,Education,Lisa Gartner

Montgomery County teachers and other school employees are set to receive pay raises of 3.4 percent next school year, including some of the paychecks they missed when salaries were frozen in the past few years.

But the raises aren't sitting well with the County Council, whose members are criticizing the decision to fund retroactive pay.

Meanwhile, other county employees are expecting to receive $2,000 bonuses but no increase to their base salaries, and question why school system employees are faring better.

School employees would see their co-payments for doctor's visits and prescription drugs get pricier to help fund the $47 million behind the salary boost, under a tentative one-year agreement reached between the Montgomery County Board of Education and its three employee unions.

"Everyone can go into the summer reassured that things are going to get better for next year, and hopefully the year after that as well," said Doug Prouty, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents about 12,000 educators.

The $47 million is offset by a $27 million surplus, as more school employees are retiring and the school system is able to hire new employees at lower-than-expected salaries. To achieve the other $20 million, the schools are increasing prescription drug co-pays by $10 for nongeneric drugs and for doctor visits by $5 to $10, among other measures.

Salaries have been frozen for two years, but under the agreement, employees who were eligible for annual pay raises last school year would get that money back. Dana Tofig, a Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman, said the money is included in the 3.4 percent calculation, with "step" pay raises this year and cost-of-living adjustments.

But members of the County Council aren't seeing eye to eye: As they comb through the agreement details, legislative aides have been telling lawmakers that the pay raises could be close to 7 percent.

Councilman Craig Rice, D-Upper County, told The Washington Examiner that his colleagues might change the $2.13 billion budget agreement they had reached with MCPS before their budget vote on Thursday.

"It's really troubling. There's certainly the potential for something to be done to protect the sustainability of us funding them," Rice said. "It certainly could mean some sort of adjustment."

Other county employees are crying foul as the schools' agreement makes their own contracts lose luster: Gino Renne, president of the Montgomery County Government Employees Organization, which represents 9,000 government workers, is now asking the council to make the $2,000 bonuses part of their base salaries. A salary increase would guarantee higher raises in the future and fatter pensions.

"How can you have no money for a certain group of workers but have money for others?" Renne wrote in a letter to the council. "It's too much."

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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Lisa Gartner

Examiner Staff Writer - education
The Washington Examiner