04/21/07 — Decision time: Schools need commissioners to take a stand on facilities

View Archive

Decision time: Schools need commissioners to take a stand on facilities

OK, let’s get this straight.

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners in general — and commissioner Jack Best in particular — are worried about getting budget numbers from Wayne County school officials in time to start work on next year’s county budget.

Numbers, by the way, that are not even due for a couple of weeks.

Hmmm. Well, that brings up a couple of questions for the commissioners as they begin talking about dollars, county needs and schools.

Which facilities budget numbers would they like? Would the budget that was proposed years ago work — or would last year’s estimate be fine?

Since there is still no facilities budget for 2006-07, and no official movement one way or the other from the county’s official governing board concerning where it will be going with the future of funding schools in the county, it would be reasonable to ask just exactly when that deadline is.

There have been numerous meetings, multiple committees and lots of finger-pointing in the school facilities budget debate — and all of it boils down to the dawn of another month of budget-wrangling and no more progress on facilities than there was this time last year.

And that means is it could be doubtful that residents will know any more about the future of their schools by the time the next budget year begins.

It is time for some leadership on the part of the county commissioners. There have been enough expensive studies, meetings and delays. It is time for a bottom line on what the needs are and what is necessary to fund them.

Arguing over school quality and district deficiencies is not enough anymore.

Now, residents need to hear numbers — and a responsible argument one way or the other for either a referendum on school funding or a plan to cut enough to put the county’s schools in the condition they need to be in to serve students.

In other words, it is time to make a decision — and stick to it — as to how the commissioners are going to handle the facilities budget.

This year’s budget process probably will not be easy. There are a lot of areas that need attention and limited money available to accomplish every goal. It is reasonable for the commission to ask for the numbers from the school district as quickly as possible.

But is also reasonable for the school district to expect the same performance in return. It is just as hard to run a multimillion-dollar school district without knowing how much of a budget will be at your disposal.

No one really wants to be the one who says “more taxes,” but that just might be the bottom line.

And being leaders means when it comes time to say the tough things — you must rise to the occasion.

The county commissioners will soon have their chance to prove that they can reach a decision, say what they need to say and do what is best for the residents and the future of this community, no matter how tough the answer might be for the rest of us to hear.

And school officials need to be a part of that leadership, too.

Let’s see if they can meet that deadline.

Published in Editorials on April 21, 2007 11:07 PM