09/26/05 — Prioritize: Critical school needs can’t be remedied all at once

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Prioritize: Critical school needs can’t be remedied all at once

No matter how you look at it, $130 million for new school buildings in a community is a lot of money. So, while it is good that the Wayne County Board of Education looked hard at the issue and gave the county commissioners a complete list of the school district’s needs, there is not really much hope that $130 million is going to be coming out of anyone’s budget anytime soon. And that was not the purpose of preparing a plan that was so all-encompassing. The idea was to show just how much work needs to be done. Now, the commissioners, and the taxpayers, know just what needs to be fixed or replaced across the county — and both groups also have an idea on how to prioritize those needs. Keeping the county’s school buildings in shape is a critical expenditure. Children can’t learn in improper facilities that are too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer. Rundown conditions don’t inspire children, either. After all, if the county doesn’t think education is important enough to provide proper facilities, why should a 10-year-old understand that adults in his community support his school? So, there is a need to look carefully at the list provided by the Board of Education, and to think seriously about what the county’s needs are and just how much of a priority we want education to be in Wayne County. But there is also a responsibility to look critically as well. There is a limited amount of money available to take care of the county’s needs and the school’s facilities. It is easy to simply say “children first,” but there are many other places money simply has to go to keep this community running. We all want to provide what is best for the county’s children, but we have a budget, too, and there has already been one tax increase in the county this year. So, the county and the school district need to sit down and make another sort of list — what we need first and the options available to pay for it. The plan should be organized with an idea of what could be done this year or next and what can wait. A critical eye is a must here, as is a complete picture of what the conditions of the county’s school facilities really are. The school system has provided the latter, and all officials involved seem to be willing to provide the former. That is how you make a facilities plan that gets the job done and doesn’t overburden taxpayers.

Published in Editorials on September 26, 2005 9:42 AM