Our opinion: Disappointment

If you felt a bit disheartened after reading about the Warren County School Board’s approval of a tentative final budget Monday night, you should at least take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone.

Taxes are going up at the same time educational services are being cut.

The school district’s property tax rate will stay barely within the strictures of the state’s Act 1, which requires a public referendum if a district intends to raise its tax rate above an index determined by a complicated formula.

Just assume that the district’s business office has done the appropriate math correctly and the district meets that criteria.

Nevertheless, we are more than a little disappointed at the direction this board is taking in the hunt for fiscal responsibility.

If you look at the list of items the board has agreed to add to its expenditures and the much longer list of things it feels comfortable with reducing or removing altogether you might draw a conclusion similar to ours: There seems to be an effort to protect the administrative structure of the district at the expense of its educational program.

While there is no apparent scale down in the size or cost of the central office – in fact a new accountant position is added -there are a number of educational programs that are being reduced. This comes at a time when the district is spending tens of thousands of dollars for stipends to its highest level of administrations who must soldier on without the benefit of a superintendent.

At the same time we are told that the middle-level program, the success of which has brought laurels to county middle school programs from the state Department of Education , is going to be “modified” with the loss of five teachers and the scale back of the teaching staff by nine through attrition.

While the district is dipping into its reserve fund to help balance the spending plan, there was no indication of how much reserve fund would be retained at the end of the impending budget year.

There is no question that the district faces some tough decisions in light of a projected deficit of well more than $4 million, but we believe the board has sent the wrong message to students, parents and teachers, who in the past three years have accepted pay freezes and will soon sit down to negotiate a new contract.