Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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One day before the state projected an even deeper budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, Baltimore City Superintendent of Schools Dr. Anders Alonso made some waves when he announced a multi-faceted plan to cut the school system’s spending.

Along with a consolidation and closing of certain schools, he wants to see the central office staff reduced by 179 employees, or 15-percent. This comes after he eliminated 310 jobs last year. "The schools have to be at the center of the universe, and central has to revolve around the schools," Alonso said in The Sun on Wednesday. A big purge such as Alsonso is advocating in Charm City has long been suggested for Worcester County’s main office off Route 113. It’s no secret at least one commissioner, Virgil Shockley, and a host of former elected officials who were critical of administrative salaries, sees that as a quick way to eliminate a lot of expenses. Shockley has said in the past he could easily cut $1 million in salaries from school headquarters without impacting one student. He believes this is the most efficient way to cut the schools’ operating budget.

Next week is when Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes will unveil his spending cuts through his proposed budget. It’s not expected there will be an elimination of administrative positions in the budget, but it was interesting to see how one superintendent is taking care of business elsewhere in the state.

The county’s recycling rate is startling to me, and it’s not in a good way. After the elimination of chicken manure recycling, the county’s recycling rate stands at 16 percent. With chicken waste recycling included, the rate jumps to 34 percent, making the county look solid because the Maryland Recycling Act for Worcester County states a 15-percent goal. While the county is striving to meet its goal even without chicken manure in the picture, it’s important to realize these waste processing facilities have recently closed, meaning this 34 percent rate will decline significantly this year. On the municipality front, according to county estimates, Ocean City recycles about 10 percent of its waste, Snow Hill 8 percent to 9 percent, Berlin about 9 percent and Pocomoke City about 5 percent. Additionally, Ocean Pines is believed to recycle about 10 percent.

While it has been said the county cannot afford financially to institute mandatory recycling, due to the rural nature of the area, it seems to me there’s no way to increase the recycling rate without it. A local master plan for waste management, mandated by the state’s Maryland Department of Environment, is currently in the review phase. While this is on the County Commissioners’ radar screen, I think it would be worthwhile to examine what it will take to make recycling mandatory in all the municipalities as well as other parts of the county. Let’s take a look at all the expenses, compare them to the fees collected for the recycled material and the impact on the landfill, and see exactly what mandatory recycling would mean for the county. This would also be an opportune time to also make sure all the municipalities are properly handling the recycled material. In other words, making sure the stuff is actually being recycled, rather than combined with other waste, as has been reported in certain areas. Even if mandatory recycling is deemed impractical after reviewing all the current numbers, it’s still a worthwhile exercise.

In other words, a survey on happiness revealed some intriguing results this week. The survey was conducted by Gallup in partnership with Healthways and America’s Health Insurance Plans. Before revealing a little about its findings, a little bit about the survey: it took about 15 minutes, involved 350,000 people and included 42 questions on a variety of topics. According to this survey, the top 10 states with the highest well-being are Utah, Hawaii, Wyoming, Colorado, Minnesota, Maryland, Washington, Massachusetts, California and Arizona. Coming in at the bottom of the survey with the least well-being, according to the survey, was West Virginia. For what it’s worth, Delaware ranked 36th, Virginia came in at 15th and Pennsylvania at 32nd.

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