The Anne Arundel County Board of Education approved a $665.6 million operating budget earlier this week that will allow the school system to hire 84 new teachers but is about $6 million lower than originally proposed by School Superintendent Eric J. Smith.

The spending plan, which takes effect at the start of the fiscal year July 1, represents a $32 million increase over the current operating budget. About 60 percent of the budget goes toward salaries and wages. An additional 18 percent is dedicated to employee benefits.

Board members had trimmed the budget proposal in March, saying they feared that the school system was overextending itself at a time of economic uncertainty.

On Tuesday, the school board announced it had reached a contract agreement with the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County. The agreement calls for teachers to receive a 3 percent cost of living increase effective July 1. It also provides a $1,500 stipend for teachers who work in schools identified by the state as needing improvement. The teachers in those schools would get another $1,500 if the schools then meet state performance benchmarks.

Business Trip to Europe

A delegation of county officials, including County Executive Janet S. Owens and Bill Badger, president and chief executive of the county's Economic Development Corp., recently returned from Europe with new business contacts that officials said would help boost the local economy.

Earlier this month, the delegation met with top government and business officials during the week-long tour.

In Russia, the group talked with U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow about ways Anne Arundel businesses could expand in that country.

On that same day, the delegation met with the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Stuart A. Bernstein, who held a dinner in honor of Owens.

"The agenda was crammed from morning to night," Badger said. "Three countries, five airplanes and two different ambassadors in the same day in two different countries."

In Denmark, Owens discussed the future of Alion Science and Technology, which has an office in Annapolis, with the company's chief executive, Bahman Atefi.

Owens also discussed the future of another company with an office in the county.

The company, which officials would not name, plans to expand its presence in Anne Arundel, Badger said.

"There are still some things that have to fall into place," he said.

Details of the plan are expected to be released in the fall.

In Finland, the group met with executives of Nokia, the cell phone company that is one of the founding partners of the county's Chesapeake Innovation Center. The center, an incubator, helps homeland security companies develop and launch their products.

Accreditation for Police

The Annapolis Police Department has won accreditation from a national policing standards organization, giving the public what a spokesman described as an "assurance that we meet the highest standards of our profession."

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies said in March that it was ready to sign off on the Annapolis department. But it wasn't until Monday's City Council meeting that the organization's director, Sylvester Daughtry Jr., formally presented the accreditation to Chief Joseph S. Johnson.

Annapolis had applied for the recognition, submitting itself to rigorous review in December. The department's spokesman, Hal Dalton, said: "When a department feels they're ready to meet the standards, they invite these people in and they do a thorough top-to-bottom assessment of the department."

In addition to assuring the public that the department is top quality, the accreditation might come in handy in defending against frivolous lawsuits, Dalton said. Other than that, it doesn't have much practical value. Residents don't get to pick which police department provides their police services.