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Letter to the Editor - Voted Levy

Article Date: 
17 May, 2013 (All day)

Dear Editor:
The Voted Levy – A Parent’s Perspective
The proposed voted levy is a hot topic in Morgan County right now.  Community groups have formed on both sides of the issue and people are discussing it throughout the county.  Through my involvement as the Chair of the Community Council at Mountain Green Elementary School, I have spoken with many members of the community with wide-ranging opinions.  As a taxpayer and parent, I am deeply invested in seeking responsible resolutions to the school district’s financial challenges. I have attended two of the school district’s community voted levy presentations, and I have been attending school board meetings for the past two years. These meetings have helped me determine that the proposed voted levy is the most responsible, immediate solution to the district’s budget concerns.
Morgan County School District is in a dire financial situation largely due to circumstances outside its control.  The state has reduced funding by over $4 million dollars, while costs have increased by over $2 million dollars.  The school board decreased the budget by over $1 million dollars in the last few years, including almost half a million dollars last year alone.  These included cuts to teacher and administrator salaries, professional development and elimination of special programs such as extended-day kindergarten.  When facing any budget challenge, the responsible approach is to both reduce spending and increase revenue; spending has been drastically cut, and it is time to increase revenue.   
At Mountain Green Elementary School, we have nothing left to give.  All remaining special programs and activities such as the summer reading program, school spirit activities and field trips are funded by donations from the PTSO or Community Council.  Our wonderful teachers pay for many of their classroom supplies out of pocket, at a significant personal expense.  The only thing left to cut is teachers, which we cannot afford to do.  Our class sizes are already larger than they should be; for example, Mountain Green’s fourth grade will have approximately 30 students per class next year, without any new students moving in.  There are many homes under construction right now, so that number is likely to grow.  
Many suggest that district finances have been mismanaged, and in two years of attending school board meetings, this does not appear to be accurate.  School finance is incredibly complex, and our school board has effectively provided our children with a quality education despite extremely limited resources.  Sixty-eight percent of district funds come from the state, with only 25 percent locally and 7 percent federally.  Therefore, when the state reduces our funding, it has a dramatic impact. 
Members of our school board are not just elected officials; they are our neighbors and friends.  We have entrusted them because they care so deeply about our community and the education of our children. They spend an enormous amount of their personal time at a relatively thankless, difficult job.  The Morgan County School Board is unanimous in their belief that the voted local levy is the best solution to our financial difficulties, and I trust them.  
Morgan County residents will have the opportunity to vote for or against the proposed voted local levy on June 25.  It is important for voters to educate themselves and make a decision based on facts; attend a school board meeting, call the district office, and talk to the principals and teachers.  Please educate yourself, decide for yourself, and vote on June 25! 
~ Shana Croft