Who is Getting Coal in Their Stocking?
I hate to get all Grinchy right before Christmas but some things are just designed to turn you green and this week’s joint meeting of the School Board and the Jefferson County Budget Committee is one of them. I must admit that I, briefly, lost my sense of good will and holiday cheer while I sat for hours waiting and waiting and waiting for some sort of common sense to descend upon the School Board. Well, to be honest it wasn’t all of the School Board but you know how it goes. Guilt by association.
Many times over the years I have pointed out the failings of the County Commission. I call them as I see them and there have been times that the County Commission has made moves that are questionable to say the very least. Let me be very, very clear. Thursday’s joint meeting of the School Board and the Budget Committee was not one of those times. As I sat there watching the action, or lack there of, play out it reminded me that the millennial philosophy of life-the one that wants it all and wants to give nothing, the one that places communication on the back burner and is myopic to the extreme-the one that is driving society crazy and into the ground can be shared by entities as well as individuals. It appears that our School Board is acting like a twenty something that has been told that it cannot buy the Porsche because it cannot make the payments. At least it cannot make the payments and pay for rent and electricity and food. I have been waiting since Thursday evening for the School Board to make a good, mature decision but since they are through for the year, I guess that is not going to happen in 2016.
I really felt for the School Board during their recent building projects. Did I always agree with their decisions? No. But I believe that they believed in what they were doing and it all turned out fine. A difference of opinion is not a deal breaker. If everyone agreed on everything then there would be no need to make a deal or compromise. This White Pine School Project has become the beast that ate Manhattan and it is not the fault of the people, administrators, teachers or students at White Pine. It is the fault of School Board and a few key players that are driving the train. We have elected these people to be decision makers for our County and we should be able to depend on them to be good stewards of our money and smart proponents of education for our children. Yet, they are willing to pay over $3.5 million dollars for a project that was supposed to be $2 million (yes, that was the starting number not $2.8 million) and that doesn’t even include a professionally installed roof. Nor does it include the cost of property or paving ( which we know is very expensive from the JCHS project) or a playground or, or or…you get the picture. At the end of the day the tax payers will be lucky to get out for less than $4 million dollars. If you were building a home would you just accept that kind of cost increase? Would you ignore that additional costs that you know you will incur? Or would you look at your checkbook and bank account and make the decision to get a second opinion? Especially if you asked five professionals to give you a price on the project and the four that you didn’t choose all came in on budget? I don’t know about you but I can’t afford to pay 30% more for anything just because I don’t want to check around for a better deal.
And that is what the Budget Committee asked the School Board to do. They asked them to at least get another opinion on the cost since it is tax payer money that they are spending. It is reasonable. It is smart. And it is what you and I would do if it were our decision about our finances. And, make no mistake, it is our finances that are in question here.
But, the Budget Committee knows that White Pine School needs help. The Principal and staff and students are not to blame and they have real issues. The most major issue is the cafeteria/kitchen and Thursday the Budget Committee offered to release $455,000 from designated County funds and School funds to make sure that the cafeteria/kitchen project is fast tracked. Did the Budget Committee let the School Board bankrupt its capital project funds and put all of their money into the White Pine Project? No, and they shouldn’t have because there are twelve other schools that have needs and will become “emergency” projects if they have no money to do the things that need to be done. Parents understand. If you have several children and one child has a pressing need you answer that need but you don’t stop feeding and clothing your other children. Focus is great. Myopic is detrimental to the collective. What is absolutely mind boggling is that the School Board turned down the offer. They are taking an all or nothing approach. Which is fine unless it is your child that has no cafeteria/kitchen in their school or you teach in a place that is still in the beginning stages of construction ( see demolition) after half of the year is already in the books. I am not sure exactly what this Board is thinking. The offer was to provide funding so the work could start asap. It was never said by anyone on the budget committee that this was the only phase that they are willing to fund. And, if the School Board had accepted the offer then an emergency meeting would have been called for the full County Commission to approve the funding. The School Board would have had the opportunity to request the full $646,000 in capital projects funds be moved during the emergency meeting and if their request was granted things would have just progressed as if the budget committee offer had never existed.
Somehow this School Board managed to take a win/win for the students and staff at White Pine School and turn it into what is likely to be a big set back. Hey, I like to gamble as much as the next person, maybe more, but when I gamble it is on my dime, All or nothing is a heck of a gamble to take when it is the students and staff at White Pine School that pay the price.
You know, I really do believe that most of the School Board Members have their heart in the right place. I just wonder where their head is. Anyway, it is over until after Christmas and New Year’s.
What I like the most about this week is that I get to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas from me and mine. I hope you day is blessed and that the spirit of the season lives in your heart the whole year. Behold… for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Merry Christmas!