Cumberland Times-News

June 15, 2014

The numbers don’t add up

Cumberland Times-News

— Our Allegany County commissioners have been throwing a lot of numbers around of late and I believe some of these numbers may be a bit deceiving.

The first number that comes to mind is the percentage of the county budget that they continue to say is going to public education.

I think these numbers reflect areas other than just the board of education, such as Allegany College and a few other areas.

It would also be interesting to see the percentage of students at Allegany College who do not reside in Allegany County.

The fact is, the year 2014 county budget percentage that went to the board of education was only 36 percent. Not the huge number they have been quoting.

They keep speaking of holding the large reserve fund of over $19 million because they have to pay for the teacher pension when they also receive a disparity grant from the state that pays most of that.

What our county gives to the school board has dropped since 1997 when they gave 44.3 percent of a larger budget.

Another number that continues to be misleading is that our board’s administrative costs are top heavy with salaries. Allegany’s school board ranks 21st out of 24 counties and Baltimore City in percent of administrative costs.

We have downsized our system to the bare minimum in the last few years by reducing our teaching staff by more than 100 employees. Because of this, our class size has grown and some services have been reduced.

And the final number that I am disturbed about is related to the new Allegany High School project.

Four years ago, when the process began to replace the oldest public school building in Maryland, an estimate was thrown out that the county would need to put out $8.2 million, with 93 percent of the construction costs coming from a one-time state funding gift.

The county has since added a million dollars for the demolition of the hospital. This brings the total to $9.2 million.

Local costs for Mountain Ridge High School were $12 million, and that was nearly a decade ago.

It would seem silly that the current commissioners are saying “not one more dollar.”

It is logical to think that the new school will be an additional $4 million. With a reserve fund of $19 million, this seems like a no-brainer for economic development.

As for those who think we can split Allegany in to the two existing schools, you do not understand the process. That would require additions to both schools at a cost of 100 percent to the county and would exceed the cost the county would pay for a new school.

I have heard about the many jobs created under this group of commissioners, but they don’t mention the ones we have lost.

If our population is declining, it is directly related to a failed economic plan by our leaders.

It is time for a change and this election is exactly where we citizens can be heard.

Our kids are important, no matter where they live in this county.

Ray Short, Allegany County teacher