Montgomery County teachers will get a 6 per cent pay increase on July 1, if a tentative three-year agreement signed last week by representatives of the county school board and the Montgomery County Education Association is ratified by both groups and funded by the County Council.
The major terms of the agreement were announced last week against the backdrop of a meeting between County Executive James P. Gleason, the County Council and the schoo board during which the government officials bluntly told the board to limit its fiscal year 1978 budget request to about $250 million.
School officials estimated the cost of the 6 per cent pay raise at between $8 million and $10 million. The meeting, which featured gloomy forecasts of continued fiscal austerity by bounty officials, offered the first solid indication of the county's operating budget for next year. Gleason must present his final budget to the County Council by March 1.
The pointed request of Council president John Menke that the board adhere closely to the $250 million preliminary budget mark raised the qeustion of whether the Council would fund the teacher pay increase if the board's budget greatly exceeded $250 million. The schools' current budget is $243 million.
If the council refused to fund the pay increase, the settlement would have to be renegotiated, school officials said.
Menke, in a later comment, noted that the tentative pay increase would almost certainly push the board's budget above $250 million, and said "it would be a very, very difficult budget to fund unless the (school board) makes major reductions in programs."
School officials had told Gleason and the Council that a $250-million budget would have "an awesome effect" on the 116,000-pupil system.
School Supt. Charles M. Bernardo, citing "inordiante" cost increases the school system sustained during the year in such items as school bus insurance, said such a budget would cause a "substantial decrease" in the number and a decline in quality of school programs.
However, Gleason and several Council members said the county's projected "limited revenue growth" over the next several years and the unwillingness of homeowners to shoulder another increase in property taxes made limiting the schools' budget imperative.
County officials said the schools' budget will make up about half the total county budget of $505 million.
School board president Herbert Benington said the board's new budget, now in the final stages of preparation, is "significantly over" the $250-million mark and echoed Bernardo's contention that trimming it to match the Council request would cause "very significant reductions" in the schools.
The astmosphere during the meeting was alternately cordial and strained. Gleason at one point accused the board of not recognizing the county's fiscal straits. School officials pointedly told the board the task of educating children deserves a higher priority than other government agencies.