Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fayette County, GA schools in the news...

Fox News, CNN and other local news stations have picked up our local school system woes and made them national.

The School Board has asked the County Commission to re-bill property taxes at a higher rate. If that weren't bad enough, they're also asking teachers to give back their 2.5% pay raise awarded last Spring. This on top of a new school SPLOST that's going to increase the cost of purchases in the county by 1%.

I'll have to say I'm smack in the middle on this one, waffling back and forth.

I know a lot of the people on the School Board and in the Superintendent's office. I think they genuinely care about our kids and the quality of our schools. I have been at some of the meetings where they talked about budget needs, how to cut back and the requirements they have to meet.

They're in a tough position. There are State mandates they have to follow, yet the State has been cutting back on school funding. Parents in this county have high expectations regarding the opportunities for students, class sizes, and the "extras" provided as a norm in our county.

However, I also think decisions have been made by the School Board that were wasteful. I won't go into a litany of things I think were unnecessary and wasteful. I'm sure you can all point to extravagances as well as erroneous decision making.

I believe that many decisions were made with the idea that times would always be good, that growth would continue and the money would keep rolling in. Forward-planning is a difficult thing and many in office only look at today (although they'll all say they ARE looking down the road). That's an area where politics comes into play. Sometimes making tough decisions for today will mean losing an election or make you highly unpopular. Most succumb and work to make their voting public happy. When the money stops flowing and times get tough, whoever is in office or in the job catches the flack.

I also think that as stewards of our tax dollars there is an obligation inherent in the "job" of our elected politicians to do worst-case planning. When I'm making long-term plans I don't expect things will always be flush. I try to be frugal with my dollars and I expect our elected officials to do the same.

However, I understand that the School Board and Superintendent did have a reserve for bad times. It's gone. I am not privy, nor are all of those writing and trashing the Board, to the details (although they're public and we could get them). When I ask the questions at meetings I get answers that lead me to believe they've been working hard trying to avoid the situation we're in now.

The Board has a tough job. If they start cutting back on those extras, like class sizes, nurses in the schools, etc., when times seem to be good, then the parents are up in arms. Over the years while things have been booming in this county we've added this little extra here, that extra there, and now we scream when they're taken away. We don't really allow the school system to do make changes or cuts when they look down the road and see bad times coming. We don't want to believe them when they're yelling that the sky may be starting to fall.

I can point fingers and I can be up in arms about what is happening now, but I don't have all the facts. I haven't dug through the books. I'm not the one receiving mandates from the State and Feds without funding.

I'm like the rest of you, I just want them to fix it without having to pay any more.

If I were a school teacher and the Board asked me to give back my 2.5% raise during these tough economic times, I'd say no way. It would be an emphatic "no way".

I'm going to scream bloody murder if they try to come back on us for more money on our houses, too.

We're all struggling. The cost of goods is rising and we're getting ready to pay an additional tax to fund the schools. People are losing jobs. Bonuses aren't being given. Everyone is cutting back.

I don't know where the school system can cut, but I think they're going to have to take severe measures within the system. We can't pay any more.

NOTE: If you have ideas on where the school system can make cuts, send us a note! We'll post your thoughts on the Fayette Front Page for all to see. Include your name if you'd like, but it's not necessary. We will not include inflammatory comments or attacks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fayette County got exactly what they deserve by re-electing Smola & Smith. Stop whining and start paying more taxes to support fiscal irresponsibility.