The Prince George's County School Board has voted to offer county teachers higher wages and benefits than originally proposed despite strong pressure from county officials to cut spending in the coming fiscal year.
The new package of wage increases and benefits offered the teachers amounts to a 7.3 percent increase sources said yesterday. The decision to offer it, instead of the original package that would have given an increase less than 7 percent, was reached in an effort to prevent an impasse in negotiations with the Prince George's County Educators Association, the teachers union. Union President Toby Rich had called the first offer "ludicrous."
The original offer included salary raises of 3.3 percent. The board voted in an executive (closed) session last week to raise the wage offer to at least 4.5 percent, sources close to the negotiations said.
The board also decided to grant the union a medical insurance plan that would allow teachers to pay only the first $2 of costs for prescription drugs.
In addition, sources said, the board decided to drop an earlier demand for a reduction in graduated wage increase for teachers based on their years of service.
Board President Norman H. Saunders, and members Lesley Kreimer, Bonnie F. Johns, Doris Eugene and Jo Ann T. Bell voted for the increases, sources said, while board members Susan B. Bienias and Angelo Castelli argued for the 3.3 percent wage figure. Reportedly, debate grew so intense that Castelli walked out of the meeting.
According to the union, negotiations between the 7,000 teachers and the board are now recessed "while both sides consider their positiond." Sources said yesterday that the union, which was given a 6.3 percent wage increase in the contract that expires June 30, has asked for a wage increase of 5 percent in addition to other benefits.
Rich said yesterday he was not familiar with the specific offers of negotiators on either side. A union statement said negotiations are "now reaching a critical phase."
Saunders and other board members could not be reached for comment last night.
The school board has already submitted a $271 million budget proposal to County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan. It will have to add to that budget whatever increases it negotiates with the teachers and two other unions. The board has felt strong pressure to minimize the increases to the teachers because of budgetary restraints Hogan has said he will impose this year.