Grayson should invest in education

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The Grayson County School Board has requested only level funding for our school system for the upcoming school year.

This budget request is conservative and includes significant cuts in personnel, transportation, instructional materials and services.

Our budget supports academic programs, career and technical education, technology, band, arts and sports.

Our children in Grayson County deserve the same educational opportunities as children in surrounding counties.

We understand the economic difficulties our region is experiencing. But if we want a prosperous community, we must invest in a high quality education system.

Education has proven time after time to be the best solution to poverty and weak economic conditions.

Predictably, some elected officials will state, “I’m here to protect the taxpayer.”

Taxpayers do not need protection. They need assurances that their money is being invested and wisely spent. They need assurances that we are making the right decisions to position ourselves for long-term prosperity.

Unfortunately, a debate is ongoing concerning responsibility of the school system to provide funds for new facilities that are in progress for the Phase I projects in Fries and in the western section of the county. We would like to clarify some facts:

• The architectural firm that conducted our facilities study provided good estimates of the potential savings of $300,900 per average elementary school closed. A total of four schools would be closed with savings that could assist with the Phase I and II projects. In other words, we should be able to provide $601,800 toward debt service at the end of Phases I and II. Phase I will be completed in about on year.

• In deliberations, we agreed that educational requirements for students were to be met as our first priority. We agreed the cost of the facilities improvements would be shared by the county and school system. We agreed that our ability to provide “savings” to apply to facilities improvements would depend on stability of state funding.

• State funds have not remained stable. Since the 2005-06 school year when we began working on facilities improvements, we have lost enrollment of approximately 200 students. We receive state funding of $5,527.00 per student, so we have now escalated to an annual loss of $1.105 million in state funds due to decreased enrollment. We have suffered a loss of sales tax revenue of $163,271 for the 2008-09 school year and a loss in state basic aid of approximately $650,000 for 2009-10 due to the economic downturn.

• In good faith and trust, the school system provided the county with $201,870 in June 2006 to be designated to the facilities plan and $410,537 in June 2007 to be used for land acquisition and architect and engineering fees. These monies were provided earlier than expected and before the end of Phase I to the board of supervisors. Had they applied the total amount of $612,407 to our facilities plan as agreed, it would have saved the taxpayers at least $130,000 in interest charges.

• In June 2008, the school system again provided the county monies totaling $518,000, with $143,000 requested to be used for the facilities plan and $375,000 requested for buses and fuel, which we have not received. We requested an accounting of how the total amount of $1.130 million was used, but have not received this information. Nor have we been provided an accounting of the county’s contribution to the facilities plan.

Communities that invest in strong public school systems have a highly educated workforce and better economic conditions. As adults and leaders, we must be the voice of our young people.

The supervisors will have a public hearing on the budget May 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Grayson County Courthouse in Independence. Please communicate to our elected officials that the price of school failure is much greater to the taxpayer than the price of success.