Archive for Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tough choices to make

Our View Editorial

May 27, 2010

We’ve watched with interest recently as both Baldwin School Board and Baldwin City Council members have wrestled with making big decisions. In each case, we’re glad we’re not in their shoes.

Of course, it helped the school board that the legislature came through with funding that prevented any additional funding cuts for now. Because of that, the board opted for “tier one” cuts, which reduced the budget enough to avoid large-scale cuts.

Without a doubt, the biggest of those large-scale cuts would have been closing either one or both rural elementary schools. That wouldn’t have been easy, but it would have been imperative had the district lost another $300,000 or so in state funding. Something would have had to have been done.

Since that didn’t happen, those schools will remain open – for now. While many rejoiced that outcome, others say those schools still need to be closed to save money and get the district back on solid financial ground.

We’ve first described our outlook on the question as we don’t have a dog in that fight with our children out of school. But we quickly add another take and that’s that we have too many dogs in that fight.

We have people we know, respect, admire, etc., on both sides of that argument. As another of those people who check in the same on it as we do, we’ll stay Sweden on the issue. We honestly don’t know what’s best for the district. Again, we can see both sides.

To a lesser extent, the city council has faced the need to raise electrical rates for the first time since 2002. That’s a long time when you think about it.

Electrical matters have long been a hot topic, sore spot, whatever you want to call it in Baldwin City. We don’t think that will ever change. This latest round is no exception.

It can all be traced back to city councils that for years maintained the lowest mill levy possible and let the electrical system fall in disarray. By 1999, it really caught up with the city. Outages were way too frequent. The power plant was lacking. The infrastructure to transport that power was not only inadequate, but dangerous.

It took millions of dollars to correct that. We pay for it every day and we’ll continue to pay for it well into the future. It’s the price of reliable power.

The council discussed that price at the last meeting and debated whether to raise rates 12, 9 or 6 percent. This year’s budget had been drawn up with a 12-percent increase plugged in. That’s what City Administrator Jeff Dingman said was needed.

Eventually, the vote was unanimous to raise rates 6 percent July 1 and another 6 percent on July 1, 2011. Dingman said he could make that work. The council will vote on the matter again at its next meeting, but that’s likely what will occur.

It isn’t a popular decision by a long shot. Raising rates never is. But in this instance, it appears it had to be done. New rate structures for businesses, schools, etc., will also be enacted, which should help.

In both these instances, hard choices had to be made. That’s the job of school boards and councils, but these were particularly hard choices. We can honestly say we’ve covered governing bodies for 30 years and never have we seen a member who wasn’t doing what they felt was best for the community.

We’re pleased to say that happened again. Agree or disagree with them, but they voted for what they felt was best for all. We applaud them for it and all their efforts to make Baldwin City a better place.

Comments

Torch 4 years, 3 months ago

:"Of course, it helped the school board that the legislature came through with funding that prevented any additional funding cuts for now."

Let me change that to read:

"Of course, it helped the school board that the legislature raised the sales tax and took $315 million out of the pockets of the citizens that prevents any additional funding cuts for now."

Fixed.

Keeping the rural schools open - particularly MS - is utter nonesense. Pretty selfish of the people out there to demand that the entire district subsidize their day-care center. But that's who we are I guess - a selfish lot who, like spoiled children, can't understand why mommy and daddy can't pay for all the toys any more.

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completelytoast 4 years, 3 months ago

"Agree or disagree with them, but they voted for what they felt was best for all. "

Perhaps. But well-intentioned governance is no substitute for being proactive and intelligent.

To beat a dead horse, it was irrational to ask the community to raise its mill levy during a time (2008) when it was obvious the economy was heading for a recession. Unfortunately, the voters who approved the increase often take the tact that the School Board has the community's best interest at heart and they must know what they're doing.

City government certainly had to know that electrical rate increases were coming, yet there was no coherent coordination between them and the school board regarding trying to slow the rising cost of living in BC. That isn't what's doing best for the community.

The equation is simple: rising cost of living = rising amount of for sale signs in BC. We are not going to be able to tax our way out of this either.

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