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Washington County Public Schools superintendent defends raises

During a presentation of the school system's budget, a county commissioner questioned the decision

March 27, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Commissioners John Barr, left, and William McKinley listen to Washington County Public School's Chief Financial Officer Chris South present the school board's budget on Tuesday.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

The Washington County Board of Commissioners and county school officials on Tuesday acknowledged the possibility of teacher pension costs being shifted from the state to local jurisdictions in the coming fiscal year, but there was little talk about those costs during a presentation of the school system’s budget.

County officials asked few questions about the Washington County Board Education’s $246 million balanced budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, thanking the school board for the good working relationship between them.

The school system’s budget includes a request for $89,857,481 in “maintenance of effort” funds from the county. The county commissioners’ proposed general fund budget of $194.6 million includes covering that request, which is an increase of $339,171 over  the current fiscal year.

Maintenance of effort requires counties to provide school systems with at least as much per-student funding as the previous year.

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham asked school system officials to explain the board’s decision to give raises to its three employee groups — a recurring cost — when the county and the city of Hagerstown have not provided recent raises for their employees.

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“We think it’s appropriate given the fact that our teachers have continued to absorb health insurance increases. We think it’s appropriate given the increased responsibilities that have been saddled on many of our teachers with respect to accountability and the requirements of their jobs,” Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said.

“We have tried to be very, very respectful of this community,” Wilcox said.

“If one would look at what it means to an individual teacher, oftentimes it is just a matter of a few dollars per paycheck that they are actually going to net versus health insurance increases and all,” he said.

The school board’s budget includes $4.674 million for raises for teachers, supervisors, administrators and support personnel.

Later in the afternoon, after school system officials had left the commissioners’ meeting room, county officials talked a little more about pension costs that could be shifted from the state to the county and school systems.

While they discussed some dollar figures, county officials said those figures could change Wednesday as state legislators continue to hammer out budget issues. The 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly ends on April 9.

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