It’s that time of year when elected officials decide school funding, budgets and taxes.
On May 22 and May 29, county commissioners held public hearings on the proposed 2014-15 budget – a budget that illustrates how county policies are routinely underfunding our schools while lower-priority county projects are approved and funded.
Consider the following:
The proposed budget does not include the $320 million that the schools estimate is needed for repairs and renovations. Leaders intend to bring that forward later in a voter referendum for bonds and a tax increase. In the meantime, urgently needed repairs will go untouched.
I am happy to see more money go to our schools but it’s not clear that a tax increase is the solution. Since parents are quick to ask for tax increase for schools, there’s been little scrutiny over how commissioners spend the 52 percent of funding that is not designated for education. Maybe more taxes should be allocated to schools.
There’s a better way. Before asking for higher taxes, it’s time to encourage our commissioners to take a closer look at overall spending and modernize the school funding policies. To start the conversation:
Orange County needs to modernize its school funding policies to prepare for growth and changing conditions. If commissioners commit to fund schools in the short term, it will take pressure off the entire system. That will allow county and school leaders to work together to develop better plans and policies for the future
There is always the option to issue bonds and raise taxes, but these decisions should be made after taking a closer look at the needs and priorities of our schools and county government.
Bonnie Hauser lives in Orange County.