Letter: Setting the record straight

I fear that the school board and your reporter may have misheard what I said at the public hearing the other day. I did not say, as the Feb. 20 article asserts, that “the board should turn an eye toward the athletic department.” You would find no such words in the transcript (if there is one).

What I said was quite different. I pointed out that the information available to the public does not indicate how school expenditures are divided among academic and athletic programs. Moreover, it is also not clear how the contemplated reductions in expenditures are divided.

Athletics are an important part of what our county schools offer and we ought to be proud of our athletes. But we ought to also be able to say how much we spend on them.

Your reporter also missed what I considered my most important point: The reductions proposed by superintendent Donna Matthews and the board do not fully offset the projected budget deficit. This is so because they took as their target only unavoidable cost increases and the proposed pay increase but not projected shortfalls in revenues. This gap is easy to overlook, perhaps because the board has made such a point of meeting the target to the dollar.

At the end of the meeting, board member Larry Groves commented that they hoped to offset revenue shortfalls through staff attrition. We don’t really know at this time exactly what the shortfalls will be but at the time of the meeting, they were estimated to be $68,000. So, although Mrs. Matthews had discussed each of the contemplated non-staff reductions, some as small as $600, she failed even to mention what could very well be the single biggest line-item cut of them all — a cut in staff.

The issues I raise are indicative of a larger problem. The school board in its public meetings and in its interactions with the public seems to have a peculiar sense of priority. For example, cutting unnecessary expenses is important. But whether to ask the county board of supervisors for more financial support is also important. Why discuss the one in such painful detail and not discuss the other at all?

W. Michael Mahoney
Washington

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