The chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners has issued the following response to the Board of Education action taken at its meeting on Friday, June 10.
- The Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a Resolution seeking financial information from the Lee County Board of Education on May 2, 2011. In that Resolution, the Commissioners reserved the right to ask for additional information as they deem necessary to review the FY 2011-12 requested budget from the Board of Education. Therefore, an additional Resolution as suggested by the Board of Education is not required. The Board of Education’s reluctance to provide the Board of Commissioners information required by statute is an indication there is still a long way to go in restoring trust between the two boards.
- The county manager was tasked by the Board of Commissioners to meet with Superintendent Moss to see how far apart the two boards were. The county manager was not tasked with brokering a deal, and the proposal by the Board of Education needs full debate by the Board of Commissioners. While there may have been an informal poll conducted by the county manager following his meeting with Superintendent Moss, this does not ensure a “deal has been brokered”. I have no doubt that several commissioners want to get this impo rtant responsibility quickly behind them without having to make uncomfortable, difficult decisions. However, I pledge to the taxpayers of Lee County this will be fully debated before the budget is adopted by the Board of Commissioners.
- The Board of Education has indicated its share of discretionary cuts under the proposed state budget is $2.8 million. The Board of Education spends over $2.5 million in local salary supplements for central office staff, administrators, supervisors, teachers, and a few other positions. As a former public school teacher, I do not begrudge the supplements received by the classroom teachers. Many of them pay for their classroom supplies out of their own pockets. There are four commissioners who have expressed concern that locally funded supplements should be on the table as a way to reduce the local current expense request. The Superintendent and Board of Education have been adamant in protecting the supplements of non-classroom employees. This leads to the perception that the school system values its central office staff and administrators more than it values its classroom teachers. However, this seems like a logical solution having a minimal effect on reducing personnel.
- Public confidence in government depends on proper stewardship of public money, whether it is local, state, or federal tax dollars. While the school system received over $11 million in federal stimulus dollars over the last two years, it managed to purchase $6 million in laptops for elementary, middle, and high school students while eliminating 3rd grade teacher assistants. I agree with many of the taxpayers in Lee County that this prioritization of spending may not be the best use of tax dollars in very difficult economic times.
The debate of education funding at the state and local level over the past months has been dominated by emotions rather than facts. It is a fact that this year’s state K-12 education funding is an increase over the previous state education budget. Teachers and teacher assistants are fully funded in the budget. Yes, it will be a difficult task looking for the most effective, efficient discretionary cuts. Sound business decisions must rely on facts and not emotions.