School budget is reasonable

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By John Barnhart

    “I think this is a reasonable budget.” — District 4 school board member Gary Hostutler


    Mr. Hostutler is absolutely correct. The budget the county school board adopted is a reasonable budget. It’s not perfect, but it is reasonable.

    One of the great things is that it balances the school budget without having to close down Body Camp Elementary School and Thaxton Elementary School. I can understand that parents, whose children attend those schools, were upset when the schools were on the chopping block — especially parents at Body Camp. The Body Camp parents had only recently raised a considerable amount of money, I think it was something like $12,000, to buy new playground equipment. This is not the part of the county where the millionaires live and these parents worked hard and came up with some very creative fundraisers. The workers included Dr. Marvin McGinnis, the principal, who enthusiastically participated in these efforts.

    The staffing ratios are reasonable. It’s difficult to precisely compare the new staffing standards with what the schools now have as this is the first time the school division has had a standard that specified ratios at all levels. They will certainly result in larger class sizes, but these are not huge increases and the class sizes will still be smaller than what state standards call for.

    There were 40 kids in my class when I started elementary school. I think that number may have fallen a bit after dinosaurs ate a handful of classmates, but my elementary school classes were substantially larger than anything students in Bedford County Public Schools will encounter next fall. Nevertheless, we all learned to read, write and do arithmetic. The school did the job as I don’t recall much parental involvement beyond a willingness to support school disciplinary efforts when we misbehaved.

    The staffing standards Bedford County Public Schools has adopted will not compromise education. The county’s teachers should still be able to handle the job.

    Asking parents to pay fees when their children participate in extracurricular activities is also reasonable. It will indeed, as Mr. Hostutler mentioned at a work session last week, impact parents. However, a tax hike would also impact parents. It would, furthermore, impact the parents of kids who aren’t participating in these activities. A tax hike impacts everybody in Bedford County.

    The fact that one has to look back several years to find a school budget that’s smaller than the one that the school board has adopted is good. This shows that they can get by on less if they know that they won’t be able to successfully hit up the county’s taxpayers for more money.

    Dr. Douglas Schuch said, at the end of the work session, that the supervisors will need to provide more money to the schools next year, a sentiment with which the school board agreed. This may be more easily said than done. The economy probably won’t be substantially better, next year, than it is this year.

    District 1 school board member Joy Wright suggested getting an early start planning for the 2011-2012 fiscal year’s budget. This is a good idea and part of that should involve serious discussions on what’s reasonable to ask the public to pay for. The school system will obviously have to have money for textbooks as textbooks do wear out with use. It will also have to maintain school buildings as deferred maintenance can result in costly repairs.

    On the other hand, the school system is going to have to take a close look at everything the schools spend money on. Additional cuts beyond those made this year will be needed.