Thank you most kindly to those of you out there in Readerland who sent me the following letter:
I am pleased to let you know that the Board of Education has approved the Operating Budget for the 2015-2016 school year. The budget totals $776.3 million, which is $3 million above the Board’s budget proposed in March, and includes $11.5 million for salary increases.
I am especially pleased to announce that you will see a pay increase in your first July paycheck. This increase will include a half step as well as a cash payment equivalent to a half step.*
As you know, HCPSS is funded primarily by our county government, with additional funding provided by the state. Both Howard County and Maryland have faced serious financial challenges for several years, and many county agencies have experienced budget cuts and layoffs. Despite this difficult fiscal climate, HCPSS employees have received salary increases as a COLA or step in each of the last 10 years. This speaks to the high level of support for HCPSS schools and staff among both county leaders and Board of Education members.
Please be assured that the Board of Education and I remain committed to providing the best possible salary and benefits package for all employees.
Renee A. Foose, Ed.D.
*Increases are not applicable to employees on frozen steps, in accordance with the salary scales included in each negotiated agreement.
OK, so, there's that.
I'm not a big fan of this letter. For a few reasons:
1. There's no mention of this increase being the result of a negotiated agreement with HCEA. Come on, folks, let's not be sore winners. Own the situation and move on.
2. It's unclear to me the short and longer-term salary implications. I mean, I get the one-time lump sum for the one half-step, and that the second half-step is to be paid throughout the year. But the letter doesn't clearly state that.
3. I'm not sure the appropriateness of high-fiving county government on this. Especially when I hear frustration from others currently and formerly in the other two branches of local government (and the HCPSS, while not literally a third branch as we think of it, may as well me!) about how autonomous the HCPSS is in their budget process.
So yeah, I get how the HCEA is kinda ticked about this. They have good reason to because they're not acknowledged as a partner to the HCPSS. Note, I didn't say that Renee Foose and Paul Lemle need to have breakfast together every Monday. I wouldn't expect that and in fact it'd be weird if they did. But there should be a bit more of recognition that the pay increase didn't come because the HCPSS and County Government were oh so generous. It was a negotiated settlement and HCPSS employees are pretty fortunate to have it. That's not what I see here.
Maybe they'll get it right in next year's letter in which they describe how the impasse was broken. Oh yeah, two impasses in two years. That's something to be proud of.
Let's be careful out there.