Letter: Underfunding is not the cause; mismanagement is
I am writing in response to Mr. McGovern’s opinion titled: “Local government is cause for concern.”
It is understood that numerous citizens attended a recent budget hearing and requested the Gloucester Board of Supervisors to fully fund Mr. Kiser’s and the school board’s proposed budget. The two boards were directed by the people, through the results of the last election, to rein-in spending throughout all departments.
The citizens of Gloucester have demonstrated their desires to have good stewards controlling the money and an effective, efficient and equal public education system. The BOS is charged with overseeing all of the county’s financial resources and the Code of Virginia allows them to either provide lump sum funding or categorical funding to the school system. If the mentality of the school board does not change soon, the method of funding could very well change. The school system is not a sacred cow or privileged special interest group without financial boundaries.
Replacing Page with a 1953 school was not considered. Many citizens and supervisors requested that Page be repaired because insurance proceeds would have covered most of the construction costs; developed athletic fields, utilities infrastructure connections and VDOT school zone safety requirements were already established; Page would have re-opened in 18 to 24 months; busing and modular space for the displaced would have cost half of what it is now. The financial path Mr. Kiser and the school board created and chose to follow has now resulted in belt-tightening in more areas than just the school system.
Let’s not forget that along with tornado damage to Page, the school board was also faced with closing T.C. Walker, obtaining school administrative space and the issue of pay increases. Now we learn through the budget process that the community is in need of large recreation spaces like the auditorium and regulation-size gym that Mr. Kiser and the school board tore down. A few months before the tornado, tens of thousands of dollars was spent to determine the cost of converting Page into an Administration and Operations Center. This conversion could have been accomplished through the post-tornado repair process for $4-$5 million. T.C. Walker could have been refurbished into the new Page for $8-$10 million. At least $8 million of the $15 million would have come from insurance proceeds leaving only $7 million for the county to pay. Now it will cost well over $30 million with the county paying it all except $8 million.
Mr. Kiser and the school board do not seem to realize credit is not free money. They also fail to realize the citizens’ pockets are only so deep.
Mr. McGovern said, “Most recognized the effects of underfunding public education in Gloucester: A reduced school calendar; neglect of capital improvement needs; deteriorating and outdated textbooks; an exodus of highly-qualified teachers and staff.” In reality, Mr. Kiser and the school board have failed to properly prioritize updating textbooks, infrastructure maintenance and capital improvements. Underfunding is not the cause; mismanagement is. If there is an exodus of teachers and staff it certainly will not be the BOS’s fault.
We the people have decided enough is enough and intend to bring about some serious changes. I encourage Mr. McGovern to get his facts straight before rendering any more opinions and to join the rest of the citizens in attempting to re-focus the school board and administration on providing an effective, efficient and equal public education program.
Kenneth E. Hogge Sr.
Gloucester Point, Va.