Baltimore County Council Chairman John A. Olszewski Sr. said Tuesday that schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston should consider freezing administrative hiring as it looks to eliminate nearly 200 teaching positions.
"You've had some administrative positions open for nine months to a year. I think that the administration should be looking at hiring freezes as well," Olszewski told George Sarris, budget director for the Baltimore County Public Schools system. "If we're going to be asking our teachers to have hiring freezes, I think the administration level should look at hiring freezes."
During a council work session, Olszewski said two recent administrative hires made by Hairston come to mind. One of those was Renee Foose, a new deputy superintendent reportedly hired at an annual salary of $214,000.
"I think that if you have a position you were running nine months on with nothing happening then I don't understand the reasoning of that position having to be filled in these tough economic times," said Olszewski.
The council chairman said the same of a director of liberal arts position that was "vacant for a year and the school system has been humming along."
"As a time when we're looking for teacher sacrifices—which means we're going to have less teachers—the common-sense approach is to have less administrative individuals as well. The message I'd like to send strongly back is to take a look at that, because I think if sacrifices have to be made, they have to be made all the way around, just not in particular groups.
Councilman Ken Oliver said another administrative position that is about to become vacant should be combined with Foose's job description.
Also, at issue for Olszewski was a request from the school system to approve a nearly $11 million transfer in its budget. The money is related to instructional salaries, though the exact details of the transfer were not fully known.
Olszewski said the school system has come back over the last three years for $16 million in such transfers.
"If you look at the history, we've had budget appropriation transfers for that particular line item over the last three years," Olszewski said. "In these tough economic times I think people have to start sharpening their pencils and stop coming up with these over-budget items that they keep coming back for budget appropriation transfers."
Sarris sat mostly silent through the discussion, answering only when asked a question except to say that he would carry the message back to the superintendent.
"Ok, I'll be happy to tell Dr. Hairston that today," Sarris said.
The comments from Olszewski and the council come one day after County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said he would like the county to have a .
Kamenetz is scheduled to deliver his first budget message as county executive on Thursday.
The council can only cut the budget. It may not add or move money around.
"In general government budgets, the county executive has the authority to approve or disapprove spending categories. Here, we don't have that direct hands-on ability to do so," said Kamenetz. "Yet, we have to pay the bill."
Kamenetz, who has cut some vacant positions and consolidated agencies, said the county is working with school system officials to "stress the importance of tightening our belts and making the hard choices."