|Brush: The community is willing to pay for education as long as they know what they’re paying for|
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer
The Franklin County School Board is taking a new approach this year to the budgeting process, beginning early in order to get more public input.
"We want the community to be a part of the budget process," said Dr. Mark Church, interim superintendent, at a budget education workshop Monday evening.
"It's about ownership," said G.B. Washburn, Snow Creek District school board member. "We want the public to feel like part of the process .... It's their tax dollars. They should be allowed to give input."
Monday's meeting was designed to give residents a general understanding of the budget process and to give them the opportunity to comment on their concerns and ideas.
However, less than a handful of residents turned out for the meeting. Instead, the seats in the middle school auditorium were filled with teachers and administrators, who discussed with board members ways to get the community more involved.
"The community is willing to pay for education as long as they know what they're paying for," said Bill Brush, Gills Creek District school board member. "One of the things we have not done so well in the past is explain the impact of budget cuts in detail."
"The community needs to know specifically how these drastic budget cuts over the past few years have impacted the education of our children," Brush added. "It's difficult to tell the community that we need more funding when our schools have continued to achieve, due to the dedication and hard work of our employees."
"Once the children begin to suffer, that's when you will see parents get passionate," added School Board Chairman Ed Jamison.
Since all funding for schools must be appropriated through the county, Church suggested that the same argument before the board of supervisors every year is ineffective.
"We've spent too much time saying educators need a raise, which they do," Church said. "But it's more important for us to spend time in our communities garnering support for our schools. It's hard for the board of supervisors to say 'no' (to funding needs) when their constituents support it."
There are other ways to get the point across to the supervisors, Jamison stated in agreement. "We need to tell them what we need and why."
Jamison briefly referred to a joint budget meeting between the school board and supervisors a couple of years ago that became heated when a former school official demanded more funding from the supervisors in a room filled with school employees.
Jamison called the meeting an "ambush." "I was ashamed to be part of that," he added.
"We need to raise awareness, not anger," Brush added. "An open, transparent dialogue (with supervisors) can only help."
The school board's list of shortfalls for this year's budget already adds up to $2.3 million, including estimated federal budget cuts, carryover funds that were used to maintain 25 positions this year, additional VRS retirement contributions, additional staffing needs, and an estimated increase in employee health insurance premiums.