2010-09-26 / Viewpoints

District needs to be fiscally responsible

Letters to the editor

Dear Editor,

The September 5 issue of The TriCounty Citizen contained an article touting the “opportunity” Montrose taxpayers have to approve a school millage renewal and bond extension at a lowered interest rate, if the federal government will provide “interest assistance”. This ballot proposal was recently defeated by volers and the new information comes, no doubt, as part of the full court press in the upcoming repeated attempts at passage.

The Wolgast Group, hired by Montrose School District to identify needed capitol improvements recommended about eleven million dollars in projects. A school board member was quoted as saying that they could spend fourteen million if the millage proposal passed. At a time when property values are decreasing, jobs are disappearing, and student enrollment is declining, I am disturbed by the “lets spend more” attitude.

Also on September 5, the Flint Journal front page featured a seemingly unrelated article describing the wide discrepancy in per pupil administrative costs in area schools. This is described as the cost of running the school, including principals salaries, but does not include dollars spent in classrooms on students or teaching. The article emphasized that lower performing schools often spend the most. Of 21 Genesee County schools listed, only four spent more than Montrose. Our frugal neighbors in Flushing spend $765.00 per pupil while Montrose spends $1197.00. That's a whopping $432.00 more in administrative cost for each and every student. With a projected enrollment of 1502 students this year, bringing out costs in line with Flushing would save over $648,864.00. Are the kids receiving a higher quality education for our extra money? Based on measurable test results, the answer would seem to be a resounding no.

The two articles I've cited may seem unrelated but, they both speak to the issue of controlling cost while providing a high quality education in an era of declining resources and revenue. Six hundred thousand dollars could recall laid off teachers or implement a bonus program for teachers who achieve outstanding results. Today, students and parents have more choices about where they receive their education. They often choose their residence based on the quality of the area school system. Right now, prior to a request for millage money, should be a good time for Montrose residents to ask the tough questions. Call your local school officials. Ask whether any concrete plans exist to control costs, improve academic achievement, and increase community involvement. I, for one, would enjoy reading articles describing these types of “opportunities”.
Sandra E. Harris

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