County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan is expected to propose an 11th hour bailout of the financially strapped Prince George's County schools today by asking the County Council to resurrect his plan to lease the county's hospitals to a private operator.
Hogan's action followed a rejection last night by teachers of a proposal to sacrifice part of a contracted pay raise in favor of saving some of the 900 employes--more than 400 of them teachers--who are scheduled to be laid off because of budget restrictions.
Hogan is expected to offer the proceeds from the hospital lease--estimated at $8 million to $12 million in the first year--for use by the schools, whose budget request was cut by $31 million last week.
Republican Hogan has been pushing the hospital lease idea for three years, but it was rejected last fall by the all-Democrat council. Although Hogan would not confirm the plan last night, saying only that he will disclose "an entirely new approach to the problem" at a press conference today, council members Gerard McDonough and Ann Lombardi say that both supporters and opponents of the hospital leasing have been lobbying them in recent days.
"This is supposed to be the funding mechanism that nobody could find," said Lombardi, who said that two school board members, whom she refused to name, had called her within the last few days to ask her support for the revived hospital lease. "Apparently school board members were led to believe that if they lobbied for this system they would get the money."
Hogan's proposed bailout would come a week after the County Council restored $5 million to the $36 million that Hogan recommended cutting from the school system's budget request. Reacting to the council action, the school board tearfully voted the next day to cut almost 10 percent of the staff of the nation's 13th largest school system.
In his budget message on March 31, Hogan said he was "aggravated when the council added some $10 million to my proposed budget for FY 1982 and rejected my suggested lease of the hospital system which would have yielded considerable revenue, about $8 million a year. . ." In that same speech, Hogan recommended that the Board of Education budget request be cut from $337.4 million to $300.9 million, almost $8 million less than the schools received this year.
School Board member Jo Ann Bell said of the lease plan, "This was a despicable way to run a government."
Council chairman McDonough said Del. Frederick C. Rummage, who also is executive director of the Prince George's County Educators Association, told him last week that Hogan was talking about reviving the lease proposal. McDonough said he did not believe Hogan was serious until he talked to Hogan at a political reception last Thursday. "He said, 'I've got $8 million for you,'" said McDonough, who reacted angrily to the renewal of the lease idea.
"He's jerking us around," said McDonough, "He is trying to shift the focus of responsibility on us, the board, the parents and the students for the present underfunded situation. . . It's so patently crass a political game a child could recognize it."
Several council members said it was unlikely the council would reconsider the lease. Lombardi said that under terms of the original lease proposed by the Hospital Corporation of America, the $8 million would have gone into an escrow account and not to the county's operating budget.
At yesterday's union meeting of representatives of the 7,000 teachers, more than 200 delegates overwhelmingly rejected both giving back any contracted salary increases or accepting a payless furlough to head off layoff notices expected to go out on Friday.
Union president John Sisson said he had expected a protracted debate in the jammed union headquarters, but the delegates took only 35 minutes to support the union's executive council, which voted unanimously last Thursday against any give-backs.
Kevin Maxwell, a vocational education teacher whose job may be on the line because of the cuts, said "educators must appear to be unified. A hard-won contract should not be easily jeopardized."
Sisson told the audience that a give-back would send the wrong message to the elected officials as well as to the public.
"We'd be telling the public that Larry Hogan was right, that teachers are greedy liars," Sisson said to cheers and applause. Sisson said a furlough--10 to 14 days without pay when the schools would be closed--was the most palatable option, but it would require teachers to work free some days because of minimum school-year requirements.
Sisson also said a furlough would cost each teacher $1,700, adding "You could do better writing a $1,700 check to our political fund rather than put it into the county coffers . . . We have to protect the profession for the 6,000 plus who will remain."
Union board member Paul Pinsky said "people realized. . . it would be dangerous to reopen the contract. If we start giving away dental plan or salary plan, what are these people going to come back to?"