06/07/05 — District seeking truce on budget

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District seeking truce on budget

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 7, 2005 1:48 PM

The superintendent of schools called on the Wayne County commissioners Monday night, challenging them to stop pointing fingers at the school system and to move forward to do "what is best for the children of Wayne County" as the county and district continue their budget discussions.

Dr. Steve Taylor made his comments in a prepared statement at the end of the school board's regular monthly meeting Monday.

Taylor said he had been "surprised and dismayed" at comments made at a county commission meeting last week and then reported in a June 3 News-Argus story.

"The disappointment was in the nature of the comments being negative as well as the context of the statements," he said.

He said until recently, he had been optimistic that both boards were working toward resolving some of their problems. During the current school year, joint meetings had been held to share information and discuss such areas as financing, testing, facilities, and construction needs.

Taylor said he was disappointed when he read what appeared to be charges that violated the spirit and intent of a Sept. 9, 2004, memo from commissioners requesting that both boards "adhere to reasonable conduct to reduce negative media results."

Citing a commissioner's remarks suggesting a lack of information received from the school system and additional statements made about the schools' level of accountability, Taylor said one official was quoted as saying, "'They want us to take the blame for increasing taxes, but they've spent no time educating the public or selling their needs.'"

Taylor disagreed with the allegation.

"First of all, this Board of Education has complied with all requests for information made by the Board of Commissioners," he said. He referred to a half-day informational joint session with commissioners to educate them on the challenges faced by the school system as well as several days spent taking the commission on a tour of all 31 schools to illustrate the needs and assist with future planning in funding them.

Defending the school system, Taylor said school officials and board members have not blamed commissioners for increasing taxes, nor have they failed to provide information to the public about the district's needs.

"This Board of Education and superintendent has spent five years putting together three different facility plans that have been sent over to the county commissioners but no funding source or solution has been approved or implemented to date," he said. "Without knowing how much funding is available for construction needs, the Board of Education cannot present a final plan to anyone."

He said the board and his administration have worked diligently not only to identify construction needs, but had also made every effort to publicize information through the media, school meetings and advisory council meetings.

"The general public needs only to ride by some of our schools like Eastern Wayne Middle and Norwayne Middle, for example, to understand the need for renovations and new school construction," he said.

Taxing authority, he said, rests solely with the county commissioners. Everything the school system does is subject to public scrutiny, with financial records audited annually by an independent source to ensure accountability.

"Problems with accountability have not been identified in the past and we don't expect problems for the future," he said.