Money is not everything, but it certainly helps. Just ask anyone alive today what money can do. …
It can pay for shelter, heat to keep that shelter warm in winter, electricity to keep it out of the dark at night and food on its table.
It’s hard to understand how they do it, but somehow those holding the purse strings of public schools sometimes fail to remember “little” necessities like these when taking wild ax swings at education costs. The first expenditure usually in their sights are teacher salaries and all other costs associated with the public school system payroll.
In the Troup County School System, these cuts have been implemented, but the budget ax has cut even deeper the past three years with school closures. The latest casualty added to this list is Unity Elementary School. The Troup County school board Thursday night voted 5-2 in favor of closing Unity Elementary School in the fall of 2013. This closure follows the closures of Cannon Street Elementary School in 2011 and West Side Magnet School in 2012. Board members approved a proposal with four main components to make up a projected $4 million shortfall next school year:
•Close the school to save an estimated $1.1 million.
•Various budget reductions totaling $1.9 million, which will include eliminating 12 elementary school teachers and dropping the extension program.
•An up to .25 mill property tax rate increase to bring in an additional $500,000, which may be unnecessary if the county’s tax digest increases. The proposed change would increase tax paid on a $150,000 property by about $15 per year, schools superintendent Cole Pugh said.
•Use $500,000 in the school system’s reserve funds, unless $570,000 expected from Kia comes in.
Yes, the cost of education is higher today. Just look at the expenditures. Schools do not send children home to eat, for example. They feed them. They feed them breakfast and lunch, and not just any old food either. Students are provided nutritious meals every day of the school year.
This is the 21st century, when every child, regardless of social standing or ability or inability to learn, is treated with dignity and respect and given a chance, a fair chance, to improve knowledge and skills. That adds to the cost of education, you can bet.
More than half of the education funding equation, state dollars, have seen decreases in the past few years. While school systems are quick to point to state-imposed austerity cuts, the reality is that every school system in Georgia receives austerity cuts and is subject to changes in state funding.
Revenue considerations are steering the budget conversation today since the school system can no longer rely, as it has in the past, on multiple millions of dollars in available fund balances to balance the budget. Those days are gone. And that is why the historic cuts in personnel and possible school closures continue to make the news this year.
State funding still is expected to decrease year after year, and long-range plans don’t address the here and now. So that’s where the big cuts come in: closing another school, taking out art and music in elementary schools along with extension teachers, a shorter school calendar, and more furlough days for school system employees. Oh, and a tax increase, which everybody loves.
“We realize that the recommendations that we are going to make impact students and parents and employees and tax payers and everybody in Troup County, but we have a responsibility when we have a $4 million deficit to do something about it,” schools superintendent Cole Pugh said. “When I read in the newspaper … about school systems that have these huge deficits and they’re having to lay off hundreds of employees and close large numbers of campuses, it makes me wonder if they didn’t put this off too long. Then, all of sudden, they have this huge problem and they have to take drastic actions to deal with it. … Since (fiscal year 2003), Troup County School System has taken annual actions to deal with this problem, so even though we have a problem and it’s a serious issue, that’s why it’s not bigger than it is.”
It’s time for more community input to find a solution to stop these cuts. Now is the time for constructive ideas.
The school system’s budget affects everyone. It seems appropriate that everyone should have a say in how it’s addressed. It’s time for the state Legislature to elicit input from the public, listen to the ideas of the communities they represent and work with them to find a solution to the blood letting of our school system. Unilateral slashing education funds is not a solution.
Get involved, contact your legislators and tell them their solution is unacceptable.