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Fiscal Foresight

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Foresight is a thing that's refreshing to find in government on any level.

It's even more rare when desperation seems to run rampant, as it did while officials worked on their finances in the midst of the Great Recession last year.

But the Carroll County Public Schools leadership managed to both avoid budgetary pitfalls and help prepare to meet future fiscal challenges for 2010.

The federal government stepped in to help localities avoid crippling layoffs through the recovery act. Many places used this one-time infusion of cash as a short-term fix.

Not Carroll County schools. Early on, Superintendent Greg Smith warned against going overboard with the stimulus funds and creating more problems down the road.

Those localities that spent all their money at once merely delayed for a year the inevitable shortfalls and the tough choices of how to make up the difference between expenses and revenues.

Now, those localities will have to consider bridging the gap through layoffs.

Carroll schools did not spend all the money at once, instead creating a cushion for 2010.

But that's not all the educators did. They started looking for redundancies among the positions in the school division to see if there could be any savings, and they decided to reduce the size of future budget holes by eliminating extra positions through attrition.

The resulting cost avoidance amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, school officials estimate. Eliminating extra positions make the school system more efficient and leaner.

Beyond that, Carroll can avoid damaging and morale-deflating moves that would inevitably arise from forced personnel cuts.

Considering the deep economic problems the localities and Virginia face, there's probably no locality that will be completely free of budget challenges.

But the foresight of Carroll educators has already lessened the impact for the county, and that's good for the students, the staff and the taxpayers.