Post Independent opinion: Overriding concerns about how district will spend mill levy
The Re-1 school board has a big responsibility in deciding how best to spend the money from the recently passed mill levy override.
Undoubtedly the board will feel pressure to do as much as they can with the money while at the same time making justifiable expenditures.
As we suggested in the runup to the election, this may not be the best time to give teacher raises.
We understand that teachers have undergone pay cuts and a wage freeze. In fact, that is a situation that many taxpayers can empathize with. Many have also not seen a raise in years, or may have had a cut in pay. Some have lost their jobs altogether.
But the mill levy passed, and we’re all paying into it through property taxes or rent, and we all have an interest in how the money is spent.
If the first priority is “the kids,” then there are several choices that more directly affect their education than would salary increases.
One prudent idea is to hold on to some of the money in anticipation of upcoming further cuts from the state. Certainly, the district doesn’t want to be asking for another override anytime soon. Their care in preparing to weather the next financial storm would likely be much appreciated by taxpayers.
While trying to sell the override, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth about class size and how that affects student performance. Clearly, hiring more teachers would help achieve the desired smaller class sizes. But it would also be good for the teachers themselves, as it would help ease their workload, which has increased with administration of the Moving On program.
We also heard about how the district would be forced to forego purchasing new textbooks, again putting the students at a disadvantage. Buying those up-to-date texts would be another obvious way to put the children’s education first.
We were warned that cuts to various programs might have to be made, including art, music, physical education, bus service, advanced placement classes and after-school athletics. Maintaining these programs is another kids-first use for the mill levy funds.
Budget woes also forced the district to cut 80 full- and part-time staff positions, and among these were some of the custodial staff. A final suggestion is to refill some of these positions, as visions of children mopping floors has us imagining Newt Gingrich’s dream come to life.
Spending money isn’t all that difficult. Keeping the people whose money you’re spending happy probably is. We urge the school board to make expenditures that directly benefit the students and to hold on to some of the cash for the hard times likely to come.
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