Some Howard County Council members this week pressed school system officials about teacher raises for the upcoming school year, expressing the need to remain competitive with neighboring school districts.

“You have to actually pay people what they deserve and more importantly, what they’re being paid 15 minutes down the road,” Council member Liz Walsh said at the budget work session Wednesday. “I’m worried we are not going to do that.”

Council Chair Deb Jung stressed the need to ensure contract talks with the teachers union go well, saying that “we cannot afford to have our teachers leave for $2,000 in Baltimore County or $1,500 in Anne Arundel County.”

The work session provided a chance for council members to ask the school system how they intend to use funding they are looking to receive from the county, as the council works through the proposed budget. All council members, except for Opel Jones, were present at the education portion of their work session.

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Howard County school system officials said they could not provide specific percentages for salary increases because of ongoing negotiations with the union.

HCEA President Ben Schmitt told The Banner Thursday that the school board, which met in a closed session earlier this week to discuss collective bargaining negotiations, refused the union’s offer “to move or entertain a multiyear contract.”

He said they offered roughly $22 million in salary increases, which the union refused back in March.

“That amount is not commensurate with what many other districts have negotiated, ratified and even been funded, nor does it get us closer to what is required by the Blueprint Legislation,” Schmitt said.

A school board official did not provide comment due to ongoing negotiations with bargaining units.

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The minimum salary for Howard County teachers is currently $58,744. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the state’s multiyear plan to improve public schools, requires school systems statewide to increase teacher pay to a minimum of $60,000 by 2026.

After facing a difficult budget season that included a $99.3 million deficit and triple-digit staffing cuts, the Howard County Board of Education sent Howard County Executive Calvin Ball a spending plan request totaling $1.5 billion, including a $1.14 billion request for the general fund in March.

The school board’s adopted budget eliminated approximately 132 school-based positions and 92 non-school-based positions.

Last month, Ball proposed to the county council a $2.4 billion budget for the fiscal 2025 year, with $1.14 billion for the school system. The school board has asked for an additional $55.2 million in their approved budget.

Over the next few weeks, the County Council will continue reviewing and potentially tweaking Ball’s proposal before approving a spending plan at the end of May. From there, the school board will adopt its finalized operating budget based on what the council approves.

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