Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

February 14, 2013

Commissioners should keep ex-officio seat

Recently Allegany County Commissioners President Michael McKay announced that the commissioners would be pursuing legislation to remove the position of county commissioner to the elected Allegany County Board of Education as an ex-officio member.

He cited that the time spent attending board of education meetings could be better utilized in other county endeavors.

Commissioner McKay also stated that “removing the county representative from the board of education would result in a strengthened relationship between the two government bodies and the board of education would benefit as well.”

I understand that county commissioners are appointed to numerous boards in a variety of capacities. I also concur that the elected commissioners are busy with many tasks that are related to the governing of the county.

However, the board of education is the largest percentage of the county budget in terms of fiscal allocation.

Additionally, the board, the county and the state are presently embarking on the construction of a new $40 million high school. I am trying to grasp how removing county representation from the BOE will improve communication between the two entities.

I respectfully disagree with Commissioner McKay that “it’s a flaw in the model” having a commissioner serve as an ex-officious member to the BOE.

I served on the BOE for six years and always appreciated the presence of a county commissioner at our meetings. The commissioners and county staff have been an important team member in many of the successes of the county school system.

The BOE and the commissioners may not always agree, but keeping that line of communication open and being accountable to the public are essential elements of effective government. During my six year tenure on the BOE, the county commissioners rotated as ex-officio members. There is no precedent that the commission president must be the appointed representative to the BOE.

I respectfully submit that instead of removing the position by legislation that the BOE and the county work out a more mutually beneficial schedule. I see no reason why a commissioner could not attend every other meeting, instead of every month, if their schedule prevents them from doing so.

Now is not the time to reduce public communication and accountability between governing bodies. It’s a hard sell for anyone to buy that removing a member from an elected board can actually improve communication.

I believe there are other solutions to this issue which should be explored before forging ahead with a legislative change to permanently remove the county commissioners as an ex-officio member to the elected board of education.

Tom Striplin

Mount Savage

Former elected Allegany County Board of Education member

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