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Commissioners Say There Could be Budget Implications if Schools Aren't Closed

What do you think, should the Board of Education close facilities in Carroll County to save money?

As Superintendent Stephen Guthrie prepares to offer cost-saving facility options to the Board of Education, Carroll County commissioners reiterate that there will be budget implications if schools aren't closed as a way to reduce overhead costs.

"We've done more than just encourage them to initiate the [facilities study] process, we've tied the outcome of the process to potential decisions we'll make here," Commissioner Doug Howard said in an open-session commissioners meeting last week. "We have said that if the decision is to not close schools then there will be budget implications for that."

Should Carroll County schools be closed as a cost-saving meaure? Tell us in comments.

School Superintendent Stephen Guthrie told Patch that he will present cost-saving facilities options, including school closures, to the school board at the Oct. 10 board of education meeting.

Guthrie said that the options he intends to present next week contain “options,” rather than “recommendations” for school facilities. He said he wants to get community input on the options in the weeks following the Oct. 10 meeting.

"To maintain our current physical structure and our current educational programs, we either have to continue to reduce spending or receive annual increases in revenue from the county government," Guthrie previously told Patch.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild told Patch that closing schools is the "fiscally responsible thing to do."

"This is a difficult process and there may be winners and there may be losers," Rothschild said in an open commissioners meeting last week. "We should encourage them to go through this process with as much due diligence as they can with the expectation of trying to reduce overhead structures."

Rothschild told Patch that "citizens need to properly understand the nature of our excess capacity."

According to Rothschild, there are approximately 4,000 empty seats in Carroll County schools right now. He said that if nothing is done, that number will increase to 5,800 empty seats by 2018. Even if the population starts to increase after 2018, Rothschild said there will still be more empty seats in 2023 than there are today.

"So what this means is that if we were to decommission a couple of small schools and reduce their [school system] excess capacity by 1,500 seats, by 2023 we would still have 3,000 empty seats left," Rothschild said. 

"We would still have 3,000 seats available for growth 10 years from now. Any assertion that closing schools today means reopening them in four or five years is patently wrong," Rothschild said.

Rothschild emphasized that although the board of commissioners encouraged the facilities study, he said the commissioners have had no say in the options that Guthrie will present.

"Nobody on this board of commissioners has gone to anyone in the board of education to say 'You need to close this school or that school,' nor has anyone said 'here are the criteria we demand in choosing what schools to close,'" Rothschild said. "We have left that completely at their discretion."

"Arguably, the only tool we (have) as a board of commissioners is the control over the budget, that's the only lever I think we have," Rothschild said. "We have linked moving forward with some kind of facility study with the budget because we have no other authority over the board of education."

The Oct. 10 board of education meeting will be held at 5 p.m. in the Charles I. Ecker Boardroom at the Board of Education offices, 125 North Court St. in Westminster. 

Blue Carroll County October 09, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Don't close the schools. I'll happily give back my tax cut.
John October 09, 2012 at 06:11 PM
It appears to me that the Board of Education makes the spending decisions, not the County Commissioners. All that they are saying is that maintaining the current number of schools will ensure that taxes will need to be increased. It is up to the Board of Education to run the schools efficiently. If we truly currently have 4,000 unused seats there may be over capacity and the Board of Ed needs to look at that and see if it provides an option for cost containment. If 2,000 of those seats are in elementarty schools there may indeed be an option for closing down one of those schools and busing those students to the remaining schools according to thier capacity to accept them. There would likely be cost savings in school admininistration, possibly in teachers if some existing classes are well below standard number of students as well as facility costs such as heating, electricity, janitors, etc. It's certainly worth taking a look at and is indeed something that the Board of Ed should be doing as a formal process at least every 4 or five years.
David from VoxPop October 10, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Two thoughts: 1) I don't think it a good investment in our county's future to close schools, especially given growth trends; and, 2) I think it's pretty clear that the funding gap for the schools needs to be closed, but why are we not looking at revenue as well as savings? Implement a 10 per cent pay cut for school administrators and impose a small tax on businesses which would be dedicated funds--NOT general funds--for education. As a business owner, I would GLADLY pay a small tax to help keep our school system intact and positioned for future growth--My agency directly benefits from well educated people! As a parent with two kids in the public system, I don't want my kids to be one of Rothschild's "losers" on this issue. Crowded classrooms and fewer extracurriculars is not a good outcome or our kids.
Commissioner R Rothschild October 10, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Kathy- As an individual commissioner, I believe all options should be on the table, including creative alternatives. Also, I disagree with those that try to equate this process with "destroying education." I believe that is a close-minded vision. I compare this situaton to an airline that flies too many planes with empty seats. What happens if the airline chooses to operate one or two less flights per day? Money saved can be redirected back into the remaining flights that are in the still in the air. In this scenario, "rightsizing" can actually improve overall quality of the airline. The same concept applies to facilities infrastructure. -Commisioner Richard Rothschild

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