The Harford County teachers’ union and the Board of Education have reached a tentative labor agreement for next year providing a 1% cost of living increase for all employees, and a step increase for eligible employees, according to the Harford County Education Association (HCEA), the union representing county teachers.
The raises negotiated by HCEA would cost approximately $5.7 million for teachers alone in the 2013-14 school year, union official Seleste Harris said on Thursday. However, because of contractual “me too” clauses with the other bargaining unions in the county school system, Harris said that the school board made their agreement with teachers contingent upon receiving a total of $7.9 million in county funding for raises next year, the amount needed to fund the negotiated increases for all school employees.
Harford County Public Schools issued a press release Thursday afternoon announcing the tentative agreement that was signed with HCEA on February 26th, but declined to provide additional details. Teri Kranefeld, HCPS manager of communications, said that the specifics of the agreement would be released once members of the school board and HCEA were notified. The release indicates that the school board plans to ratify the agreement at a meeting set for March 11, and that HCEA would ratify the agreement in the next few weeks, before County Executive David Craig submits his budget to the County Council.
However, HCEA President Ryan Burbey said later on Thursday that union members wouldn’t ratify the agreement before Craig releases his budget.
Ratification will come after the necessary funding is in place, Burbey said, either when it’s recommended by Craig in his budget or, failing that, when and if the funding is provided by the County Council.
Harford County Public Schools has requested a $442,794,760 operating budget for the fiscal year 2014, a $15 million increase, or 3.5%, over this year. However, due to a decline in revenue from the state and other sources, the budget request to county government is an additional $21 million, a portion of which was planned to pay for negotiated salary increases.
After several years without an increase, hundreds of teachers protested and worked to rule last year, eventually getting a 1% cost of living and a step increase for the current school year, which the school board paid for in part by cutting programs and positions when the county didn’t fund the requested amount.
Burbey said that the negotiated 1% cost of living and step increases for next year were reasonable based on the school system’s finances and the “political climate.” But if the contract isn’t funded by the county, the union would continue negotiations with the school board and may consider possible job actions, such as again working to rule. “Hopefully, it won’t come to that,” Burbey said.
Below is the press release issued by HCPS:
BOARD/HCEA REACH TENTATIVE CONTRACT AGREEMENT
The Board of Education of Harford County and the Harford County Education Association (HCEA), which represents approximately 3,200 Harford County Public Schools employees, including teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists, media specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech and hearing clinicians, have reached a tentative agreement between the two organizations.
On Tuesday, February 26, 2013, the tentative agreement was signed by representatives of the school system and HCEA. The one-year tentative contract settlement between the two organizations encompasses the 2013-14 school year, which will begin July 1, 2013, and end June 30, 2014.
Specifics of the tentative agreement, to include salary enhancements, are currently being shared with members of the Board of Education of Harford County and with the members of HCEA. The agreement becomes official after ratification by both HCEA and the Board. Ratification of the agreement is expected to be placed for approval on the March 11, 2013, Board agenda. It is anticipated that HCEA members will ratify the agreement within the next few weeks in order for the agreement to be finalized prior to the submission of the County Executive’s 2014 budget to the county council. Details of the agreement will not be released until members of both parties have been informed.
Information regarding the collective bargaining process can be found on the school system website at www.hcps.org by clicking on the ‘Board’ tab.