Judy Spooner: Budget cuts? Not in my back yardWhat do public transportation, year-round school and budget-cutting have in common?
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
What do public transportation, year-round school and budget-cutting have in common? Most people agree that riding a bus and going to school all year long are great ideas for everyone else, but not for them. Budget cuts are prudent as long as the city or school district does not cut their favorite programs.
Brace yourself folks, we are in the middle of the budget-cutting season.
I have seen enough lists of suggested cuts to stretch from here to the moon and back.
Discretionary budgets, seminars and subscriptions are the first to go. That is followed by paring back mileage, cutting some part-time positions and reducing maintenance.
School District 833 has a budget-cutting task force working on a suggested list of $7.5 million in cuts. In early March, the school board is expected to cut $5 million.
It seems like a big number, but I’ve seen budget cuts go much higher. I refer to the 2002-2004 era as “slash and burn.” You could have shot a cannon in the service center and not hit an administrator.
The district has also received suggested cuts from the public. I’ve seen most of them before.
There is usually a suggestion to consolidate bus routes. I’ve seen the routing schedule and it’s more complicated than the invasion plans for D-Day in World War II. Transportation knows their stuff and tries to be as efficient as possible.
Cutting buses for high school students is a popular suggestion because many students drive to school. But state law won’t allow it so talk to your legislators if you want that changed.
Getting rid of “extras” is a popular idea posed by old people like me. Art, music and theater are first on their list, but not on mine. If they are not essential subjects to foster well-rounded students, we should all throw our iPods, radios and compact discs in the trash. Who needs opera, television and movies anyway?
“I got a good education,” one senior told me. “You got a fine education for what was taught in 1948,” was my response. “Currently, you couldn’t pass fifth-grade math.”
There is a suggestion to build walkway bridges over busy roads so students can walk and not be bused. The price tag for one of these can approach a million bucks. I can do the math.
There are numerous suggestions to cut the amount of information on paper sent to parents. I agree, but like turning off lights and computers to save energy, there has to be commitment to make that work.
I’m troubled, though, by some strident suggestions I’ve not heard before such as a teacher salary freeze. Another went much farther to cut retirement benefits and nullify contracts.
There are legally binding contracts in place that provide for collective bargaining and benefits to retirees that can’t be arbitrarily severed by a school board.
A court would reinstate the contracts, but that’s not why I believe these suggestions look like punishment. If you have a job, you would be horrified if your company slashed your retirement.
The teachers union, and the other bargaining groups are aware of current economics.
I trust the process.
Judy Spooner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.