06/27/07 — Next stop, schools: Commissioners must now take up facilities question

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Next stop, schools: Commissioners must now take up facilities question

At long last, Wayne County has a budget for the next fiscal year.

The going wasn’t easy, but county leaders agreed on a 2.9-cent tax increase by a 4-3 vote Tuesday.

Some of the commissioners who voted against the spending plan said they agreed with most of the provisions included therein, but still had some concerns about waste.

Rather than cast a “yes” vote for a spending plan they did not wholly endorse, those commissioners decided to oppose the measure.

And that is OK — as long as they continue to come up with positive contributions to keeping costs down and services at an appropriate level for Wayne County residents.

Keeping an eye on county finances is, after all, everyone’s job. So, as the year ends and a new one begins, those who are questioning where money is going in the county should point out line items where they think the waste can be found — and question those expenditures in public meetings. It is nice to know they will be watching.

The new budget includes a tax increase — albeit a smaller one than originally planned. And that is a necessity this time around.

Keeping Wayne County competitive and a player when it comes to economic and residential development is vital. As competition for companies and residents becomes more keen, this county will have to do more than keep up with the Joneses if property values are going to increase.

And then there is the little matter of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. There will be another Base Realignment and Closure Commission in the future. The time to make sure this county is prepared is now, not a couple of months before official visits start. Consider improved services and infrastructure a bit of insurance.

But lest we all think that the budget talks are over, there is another white elephant in the room that not too many people are ready to talk about.

There has still been no decision on what is next for the school facilities plan.

The legwork has been done — and the meetings have been somewhat productive. But just as there was quite a bit of work required to get to a final budget, there will be more ahead before we get a real plan — and real numbers — regarding what it will cost to build or repair Wayne County’s schools.

There has been talk, too, of more money to improve and expand programs at the schools — and that is another factor that will need to be considered.

So, while Tuesday’s budget is a step forward, and some concessions have already been made, there is much more debate ahead. Stay tuned to see what comes next — and if you have a thought, share it.

Published in Editorials on June 27, 2007 12:12 PM