BoE, let’s face the facts rather than closing schools
I have heard it said at board meetings and I have read it in the papers: There are two major issues facing our school system:
1. How to reduce our budget by $15 million and,
2. What to do with all of the excess capacity, especially in elementary schools. The quote I have heard is “... we cannot ask the taxpayers to subsidize these empty classrooms”.
While I do agree that these two points sum up our current situation, I cannot agree with the remark on subsidizing.
Now, like everyone, I hate taxes. I want them lowered. The tax burden that our Board of Education is asking the citizens to pay is hurting our local economy.
The fact is that our Board of Education has a spending problem. They have over-spent in buying land, over-spent in building schools, and over-spent in hiring. It is probably safe to say they have over-spent everywhere.
When times were good, the BoE grew. When times got hard, they refused to right-size their staff.
Here are some disturbing facts – we employ 400 more employees than Coweta County, even though they have 2,500 more students and two more schools.
I understand that we are better than they are academically and that excellence has a price. What I do not understand is how Forsyth County, which is beating us academically, spends $2,000 less per student than we do.
Even by looking back at ourselves 10 years ago, 70 percent of our total employees were teachers and para-pros. Today that group makes up only 60 percent of our total employees.
In 2012, our county received $20 million more in local taxes and $6 million more in total revenue than Coweta County. Yet, Coweta County educated more children, operated more school buildings, had the same issue with state funding, but is not considering closing any schools. Ironically, they spent $15 million less than us.
Our Board of Education system is broken, and not just financially. It appears, from the outside looking in, to be full of hierarchy and bureaucracy.
Decisions are being made in corporate offices instead of school buildings. There are hundreds of “educators” that never, meaningfully, interact with children.
Maybe most troubling is the fact that the BoE thinks a big reason for our academic success is because of this extra spending and not just the hard work of our students, teachers, and parents.
Over the years, the Board of Education has known about this spending issue. Instead of making the hard decisions, they opted for group job preservation tactics like “across the board pay cuts,” furlough days, shorter school years, reduced benefits — anything but right-sizing their staff.
As expected, these short-term solutions have not worked to fix our spending issues. So, in 2009 the Board of Education decided to max out our tax rate.
It should serve as no surprise that since this tax rate hike, our enrollment numbers have dropped 10 percent while Coweta’s enrollment has increased 2 percent.
This hike is a primary reason for our declining enrollment and declining local economy. The BoE and its high tax rates have made Fayette County undesirable compared to surrounding counties.
So, I ask, are the taxpayers subsidizing empty classrooms or unnecessary spending?
Their latest short-term solution is to close schools and redistrict the entire county. This, they say, will fix our problems.
Well, consolidating empty classrooms into empty, desolate buildings does not lower taxes. It lowers property values!
It does not fix declining enrollment numbers. It simply causes more as the parents of children affected decide to leave the public school system in favor of home or private schools.
Demolishing the few small communities we have left in our county will not fix any of our issues. It will only exacerbate them.
Unnecessary spending is causing our $15 million deficit. Unnecessary spending is causing our excess capacity. Unnecessary spending is causing our massive tax rates.
Board members, I urge you to please vote NO for school closures. It’s time we stop subsidizing the real cause of all our problems.