On Jan. 25, the MCCSC School Board outlined its plan for using funds gained from a voter approved tax hike. The proposal had many members of the public upset with the realization that the components of the proposal are not what they voted for. Instead of a one for one replacement of what was cut last year, which was what former superintendant John Coopman suggested in his original letter to the School Board on June 29, 2010, the proposal takes a heavy focus on literacy.
Initial complaints included that the proposal left out foreign language programs in middle schools, counselor positions at both North and South, and the band director position at North. These complaints were answered to a certain degree by amendments passed on Feb. 22, before the budget itself was approved. The amendment that secured the previously omitted positions added about $222,000 to the budget, which is being taken out of the expected $1.4 million that was being used to assure another budget shortfall of such magnitude did not occur.
Although this budget seems to address most problems of what was cut last year, including adding 64 staff members in total, it leaves too much still uncertain for the following years. Much of the budget truly only seems to exist for the sake of political positioning. The amendment that added foreign languages, counselors, and the band director is only agreed upon for one year, as is the extension of the Honey Creek and Bradford Woods programs. After next year, the programs could be cut just as easily as they were added. School Board member Sue Wanzer, who proposed the amendment, came close to even saying that it was a political decision. “This is about creating good will with the community,” said Wanzer with The Herald-Times. Wanzer has the wrong idea, as the amendment should be about creating quality education, not good will.
The School Board had an opportunity to end all the worries about the diversity of the education a student can receive in the MCCSC, but instead chose to leave everyone wondering for a year. The choice to leave programs in limbo is especially questionable given the surplus that the MCCSC expects to collect. Even with the amendments, the expected surplus still sits at $1.1 million. In addition to the fact that they are building up such a large amount of money into their reserves, there is the fact that they can come well short of their expected tax revenues and still pay for everything. These are not the financial symptoms of a corporation that needs to leave what essentially are its customers wondering about the quality of service they will receive in the future.
Additionally, the sheer fact that there is such a large surplus is a break of public trust. The referendum was treated as must have money in a dire situation. Building up financial reserves isn’t truly an absolute must. It is also important to remember the reason for the budget deficit, a lack of funds from sales tax revenue. It seems more likely every month that this revenue is steadily increasing with consumer spending on the rise, making such a large surplus even more abhorrent to tax payers. Overall, the School Board has been too shaky in maintaining public trust.