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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. 

Charleen Heyn October 09, 2012 at 10:44 AM
While I agree that we need to look at the possibility of closing schools, you need to at more then just number of students. The numbers thrown around in this article are from all age groups throughout the entire county. School closings may not be the best the answer and I hope the commissioners are willing to look at the options with an open mind.
Buck Harmon October 09, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Why are we not hearing from Haven Shoemaker about this issue that he helped create? Poor decisions made by Shoemaker while he was Mayor of Hampstead seem to be surfacing rapidly. Can only wonder about his decisions as Commissioner... Shoemaker made the case to the previous Commissioners that Manchester Valley had to be built immediately. Have you had the chance to speak to him about the mess that he made Rothschild?
BJ Gardner October 09, 2012 at 12:14 PM
You may not be telling BOE what schools to close but you are twisting their arm to do what you want. I feel the "5" are making a big mistake again.
Buck Harmon October 09, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Good decisions come from experience.....Experience comes from bad decisions. Pretty sure the Commissioners are gaining experience here..
Kathy October 09, 2012 at 12:57 PM
If the Commissioners believe that Carroll County is growing--and I do--it would seem that closing schools is short-sighted. In the first place, why do most families move here? Isn't it for good schools? If a particular school is more than 1/3 empty, closing it might be appropriate, but if we are only talking about 100 or so seats per school, there could be better ways to balance the budget. And how about closing a portion of a couple of schools--maybe closing down a wing would save electricity, maintenance, labor, etc.? This way if the population in that area increases, it is easy to open that wing up again. Closing a school really should be a last resort.
Buck Harmon October 09, 2012 at 01:18 PM
History has proven that once a school (or other public owned building) is closed, neglect by lack of care and maintenance quickly settles in. Demolition by neglect would be the appropriate term. This happened to the Old Hampstead Elementary School which led to the County government giving the property away receiving no value what so ever for a valuable piece of real estate. The County gave the 64000 sf school and 5.5 acres of land to Hampstead taxpayers. Hampstead town government, once again led by Mayor Haven Shoemaker then GAVE the valuable real estate to private developers...completely ignoring it's value to tax payers as well as the competitive bid process. This was a scam that the select developer continues to profit from today. This is a perfect example of how both the County and Town deal with what is deemed to be surplus property. Tax payers lose each step of the way.
David from VoxPop October 09, 2012 at 01:28 PM
I'm just curious to know if there is only one source available to Patch for this story line. The story that ran yesterday quoted Rothschild almost exclusively. There has been no interview with the head of the PTO, local principals, parents, or anyone else. The way this is reported, it seems like Mr. "I'm building a new school in my district but want to shut down the schools in yours" Rothschild is the only one being consulted and, apparently, he only has one idea. Amazing how English-only laws are Rothschild's priority, but when it comes to ACTUALLY preserving the culture by educating the children, he goes to Run It Like a Business (TM) mode. I guess we will be home schooling.
David J Iacono October 09, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Close public schools and promote vouchers to private schools including Christan schools that teach a bunch of nonsense like creationism instead of real science like evolution, climate science and physics. Sounds like a Republican Tea Party plan to destroy public education locally. Is this how you want your tax dollars spent.
newsjunkie October 09, 2012 at 01:48 PM
"... there may be winners and there may be losers," Rothschild said. Tell us commissioner, who will be the losers? The students? The employees (and their families) or further down the road will it be the next board of commissioners and ultimately the taxpayers? Rothschild (and Frazier) have made their disdain for public employees clear. In addition to trying to close schools they are now proposing taxpayers fund school vouchers in a system with highly rated schools. These two commissioners, in particular, don't trust anyone. They are always "saving" us poor, ignorant taxpayers from the dangers of the godless liberals, the UN, Obama, O'Malley, the Board of Education, even their own employees (well, those who are left). We elect a Board of Education to make decisions regarding our educational system. The commissioners are playing a very nasty game. "Do what WE want because WE control the purse strings." However, it's the Board of Education who has to go through the charade of this study and then deal with the angry families. The commissioners want no part of that! I wonder if Frazier and Rothschild will attend the meeting on Wednesday night? I'm sure Frazier could answer a few questions from the Charles Carroll families in her district. Rothschild could impress us all with his calculations. Perhaps, since he knows so much, Rothschild could explain how redistricting will work. No, I expect these two empty barrels will be very quite on Wednesday night.
Voiceless Taxpayer October 09, 2012 at 01:52 PM
All of us have all been losers from the day Rothschild was elected. I would like to know specifically which schools he would close and why?
I. DeFeo October 09, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I am so disappointed with the commissioners as a group. The battles they choose often make little sense. I won't even go into them here. The schools need to be funded better than maintenance of effort, and I really don't like the fiscal game they are playing with the BOE. It seems like there's a veiled threat in the words - The BOE gets to make the decision but....
jag October 09, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I find it interesting the Commissioners dictating to the BOE. Granted, the BOE is very good at wasting a buck, but to have the Commissioners threaten the BOE.....
Arya Stark October 09, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I am angry. I feel lied to by Mr. Howard. He told us that he was against closing a school, and that there is no fiscal reason to close one. But then he says this: "We have said that if the decision is to not close schools then there will be budget implications for that." What implications? Why is the BOC so hell-bent on slashing the education budget?
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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