The Harford County Board of Education has signed tentative labor agreements providing 3% cost of living increases for all school employees next year, plus step and longevity raises for eligible workers, that together will cost $15,326,618 in FY12, according to Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for HCPS.
Representing the county’s 3,200 teachers, the Harford County Education Association (HCEA) negotiated the 3% COLA increase in a deal that was reached in January and made public last week. The HCEA agreement automatically triggered the same 3% COLA for all other school employee contracts, per piggyback clauses contained in their respective negotiated agreements. All COLA, step and longevity increases are subject to funding availability.
The school system has requested a total increase of $23 million from Harford County Government for next year and budgeted for flat funding from the state. County Executive David Craig is expected to release his proposed FY12 budget on April 1.
But in an ominous sign for next year’s budget, Craig formally requested on February 9 that all outside agencies, including the school system, return 3% of county funding from the current fiscal year. The 3% giveback was also applied to county government departments.
The school system’s FY11 county allocation was $214 million, meaning the 3% giveback would have amounted to $6.2 million. But in order to remain in compliance with the state’s maintenance of effort requirement, HCPS is expected to return only $3 million.
Harford County Education Association – Tentative Agreement Highlights
In addition to the 3% COLA, step and longevity increases for next year, HCEA negotiated a new health plan option featuring the benefits that were in effect on June 30, 2010. Subsequent changes to the healthcare plan had prompted angry protests from hundreds of employees and resulted in grievances filed by employee bargaining units, who argued that health plan changes should have been negotiated. School Board President Mark Wolkow promised at the time that healthcare would be negotiated in the future. The new option (with the old benefits) requires employees to pay 15% of the premium cost, with HCPS paying 85%. The existing HMO and PPN options require a 10% premium contribution from employees.
The tentative, 2011-12 teachers’ contract continues to allow HCEA to communicate with members through the school system’s courier and e-mail services, but adds a requirement that copies be provided to the HCPS communications office at the time of distribution. A year ago in January, HCEA President Randy Cerveny filed a grievance against HCPS when his email account was shut down following his call for teachers to protest salary cuts at school board meetings. Within weeks, Ceveny’s email account was restored and the HCEA grievance was dropped, with both sides agreeing to adhere to the language of the negotiated agreement, now amended to require copies to the school system.
Also new to the 2011-12 tentative agreement is a provision giving teachers the right to respond in writing to documents placed in their files, and the right to have an HCEA representative present when appearing before the superintendent to discuss suspension or dismal.
The text of the tentative 2011-12 agreement between HCEA and the Harford County Board of Education appears below. The tentative agreement amends the current negotiated agreement, and together they constitute the entire tentative contract for 2011-12.