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Letters to the Editor 5/26 Part 2

May 28, 2002

Is county stiffing schools? Check these facts


To the editor:

For this taxpayer, it was disappointing to read the recent letter to the editor from six of the seven members of Washington County's elected School Board. These board members accused the County Commissioners (and county taxpayers) of inadequately funding Washington County public schools.

The letter states that the elected school board requested the smallest increase in 10 years. While this may or may not be true, the requested increase of local government for FY '03 was $5.8 million, or 8.47 percent over the prior year.

Very few households in Washington County would expect to experience such growth in their own personal incomes for the upcoming fiscal year. The letter further alleged that the County Commissioners are unwilling to commit local funds to education. This statement is misleading and the real facts are as follows:

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- The local funding percentage of the BOE's total budget has risen from 50 percent to 55 percent while the state match has declined to 45 percent;

- Since FY '99, local funding for operations has been increased by almost $15 million annually ($55.2 million in FY '99 to $70.2 million in FY '03), while student enrollment has remained relatively constant;

- The average annual increase in local operational funding during the four-year term of this Board of County Commissioners is 6.8 percent;

- The school system was insulated from the recent 3 percent budget cut imposed on general County government departments;

-Taxpayers have provided the local funding to match the governor's teacher salary challenge initiative;

- Taxpayers have provided the local funding and resources for such initiatives as the Judith center, Wellness Center at Western Heights and benefits for school health nurses;

- Taxpayers have provided the local funding to hire additional classroom teachers and improve the ratio of enrollment to teacher to eighth best in the State (MSDE, Staff Employed at School, October, 2000);

-Taxpayers have provided the local funding to maintain the ratio of enrollment to administrators at the level of ninth highest in the State (MSDE, Staff Employed at School, October, 2000), and

- Future taxpayers will be paying for the increase in the local annual contribution to BOE capital improvement projects which has been increased from $2.5 million to $5.0 million annually.

As one might suspect, school funding has been a priority of this Board of County Commissioners over the past four years. Challenges do remain.

Questions can be raised as to the proper use and application of these funds, and, as with any government entity, efforts can be undertaken to improve internal operational efficiencies.

It is hoped that the recent Management Review Team assembled by the Superintendent will begin that process.

Her ideas in improving education that include program and curriculum changes, magnet schools, charter-like schools, and incentive-based compensation should do much to further challenge all interested parties to their fullest potential.

It is unfortunate that six of the seven members of the elected school board fail to see the advancements that have been made in education, and fail to see the support that has been provided by local residents.

Bill Wivell

Washington County Commissioner

Smithsburg




Come to City Park, learn about tobacco


If you're looking for something fun and informative to do on a weekday evening, consider celebrating "World No Tobacco Day" with a "Walk in the Park" on Thursday, May 30 at 6 p.m. in Hagerstown's City Park.

The event, sponsored by the Tobacco Free Washington County Coalition, is designed to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco use, with a variety of activities, including an appearance by Dr. Victor DeNoble, a former Phillip Morris research scientist now known as the man who blew the whistle on the tobacco industry.

Why would more than 200 people gather for this evening event? Because we know that tobacco is a dangerous product, not only to the user, but also to those exposed to second-hand smoke.

A recent study suggested that second-hand smoke could be the number-one preventable cause of breast cancer.

Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are often smaller, which leads to other health risks. If parents smoke around their children, the children often suffer from frequent illnesses and are much more likely to have respiratory illness.

Teens who smoke are more likely to use other drugs and make other poor choices. It is tough for a teen to understand long-term health effects which is why it's our job to teach and protect them.

Yes, tobacco is a legal product and Maryland has some of the toughest laws around. But unlike alcohol, tobacco's effect often takes years to show its deadly face.

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