Board Of Education
Schemed Bus Drivers
When is a one-and-a-half percent raise not one-and-a-half precent? Answer: when the Worcester County Board of Education does the math.
Recently, the Board of Education pulled a fast one on the Worcester County school bus contractors. Actually, they have been doing the same thing for the past five or six years. By having eight different categories by which contractors are paid, they can give a certain percentage as a raise and actually be paying much less.
Take this year’s raise for example. An average route with an averaged aged bus would generate a monthly check of $6,027.50. A true 1.5-percent increase would equal $90.41 per month for 10 months. While the Board of Education will receive this amount from the county, they will actually pay out an increase of only $43.13 per month on this contract. What this means is that of this so-called 1.5-percent raise, the contractors will see less than half of what the Board of Education receives for them. The amount that the contractors will see from this “raise” will amount to an average of six-tenths of 1 percent of their monthly check.
The contractors have seen the cost of buses raise by 35 percent over the last five years. The average on-the-road price of a new bus is $125,000. An old change runs $400; a set of tires about $3,000.
Our current Board of Education budget has a line item increase of a quarter of a million dollars listed for increased routes and contracts, while the board actually eliminated two contracts. No one has explained where that money went.
I expect that board members will claim that it’s not they that voted against the contractors’ raise and therefore clean their hands of any responsibility. After all, they did submit a 2-percent increase for the contractors to the County Commissioners.
The problem with that is for some reason the budget requests for the contractors were split off from the rest of the board’s budget. This is the first time that this as ever been done. Something smells of a backroom deal.
By submitting the board’s budget, less the bus contractors’ portion first, the board would get favorable votes from Commissioners Shockley and Purnell for their increases. When the bus contractors’ portion was voted on, these commissioners would have to excuse themselves from the room.
To stop the 2-percent increase, the board would need only two “no” votes, as four “yes” votes are needed to pass anything. One commissioner had already voiced an opinion against any 2-percent raise and had voted against the Board of Education’s portion. That left only one commissioner for them to get to, to vote against the bus contractors.
I really have to congratulate the architect of this scheme. It is worthy of current Washington or Annapolis politics. It’s a shame that it was perpetrated on Worcester County school bus contractors.
Hold Spending Steady
I am writing regarding the Worcester County Budget Hearing held on May 7. Current budget requests exceed anticipated revenues by approximately $7 million. To fully fund the requests, the commissioners would have to raise properly tax rates. In these hard economic times, with many county residents unemployed or underemployed, businesses struggling to stay afloat, and more tax increases being forced on the citizens by the state and federal governments, it would be unwise to raise property taxes.
The teachers union recently sent out a flyer to county residents regarding the hearing and the Board of Education’s request for a "modest increase in funding for next year". The flyer made the claim that the county had a surplus last year of $7,000,000. This is a little misleading. Yes, revenues last year were approximately $7 million more than anticipated, and after an audit, the commissioners prudently decided to use the funds to pay down school construction and other debt and to replenish the budget stabilization fund. County Finance Officer Harold Higgins informed the commissioners at a recent meeting that, unless there is a major change in projected revenues (unlikely considering the continued stagnation in the real estate market), the Budget Stabilization Fund will be depleted by 2015, only two years in the future. That $7 million surplus isn’t just lying around waiting to be spent.
Several citizens, including myself, spoke out against increasing any part of the budget, including the Board of Education. Listening to some of the emotional speeches from those in favor of increased school funding and teacher raises, one could be forgiven for expecting to see the teachers present sprout wings and halos. Such was the emotionalism of the "pro education" speakers, as if it is "anti-education" to state the obvious fact that we don’t have the money to fund increasing the budget in any area, including education.
Yes, we have good schools in Worcester County, and yes, most of our teachers are very good and probably do deserve raises, but the bottom line is this – budgets are based on facts and figures, not emotion. Lots of taxpayers in the county probably deserve raises, but wishing doesn’t make it so.
For the time being, and in these difficult times, I believe all county departments should be able to make do with their current budgets.
EMS Week Recognized
During the week of May 19-25, Maryland joins the rest of the nation in celebrating National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week. I commend the Maryland EMS providers who respond every day of every month to emergency situations, making our Statewide EMS and Trauma System a national model for life-saving care. With Gov. Martin O’Malley’s commitment to public safety and the well-being of all Maryland’s citizens, he has recognized the accomplishments of EMS providers by designating Emergency Medical Services Week in Maryland.
Maryland’s EMS system includes thousands of trained and licensed, volunteer and career emergency medical dispatchers, emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians, cardiac rescue technicians, and paramedics, as well as hospital personnel. As with any organization, it is the people that make the system work. What is extraordinary about Maryland’s EMS system is that over half of those people are volunteers. Both career and volunteer personnel engage in thousands of hours of specialized training and continuing education to enhance their life-saving skills. I applaud these men and women whose efforts save lives and minimize the disabling effects of injury in Maryland.
Even with all these highly trained EMS personnel, we need all Maryland citizens to do their part as a vital link in this EMS system. By calling 9-1-1 when they see an emergency and learning CPR, they become a part of the team. The earlier the response, the greater the chances are of survival. I challenge everyone to become involved, and not be one to say,” Someone else will make the call and step up to help save a life.”
The citizens of Maryland should be proud of their Emergency Medical Services system and its EMS providers, and join me in congratulating them on a job well done.
Robert R. Bass
Thanks For Support
The Ocean City AARP Chapter 1917 sends out heartfelt “thanks” to all the citizens and other supporters who attended our 27th Annual Health Fair on May 8. Yes, the weather was a little challenging, but the enthusiasm displayed by all the attendees and vendors made it the great event it has been for all these many years.
Special thanks go to chairman Dr. Melvin Friedman, Dawn Denton and the staff of Atlantic General Hospital, the Mayor and City Council of Ocean City, along with the staff of the Roland Powell Convention Center.
We are particularly grateful to the vendors and volunteers who donated their time and talent to making the Health Fair a success.
OC AARP Chapter 1917 meets the 2nd Thursday of the month, September through June at the Knights of Columbus Hall on 99th St. All national AARP members are welcome to join us.
Christopher R. Norris
(The writer is the president of OC AARP Chapter 1917.)
Program Blessed Again
Americans are the most generous people on earth and Worcester County is blessed with many of those people. On behalf of the Caring for America Program of the Republican Women of Worcester County, I would like to thank all who supported our efforts to collect over 200-plus boxes of breakfast bars and other breakfast items for the “Breakfast Bars for the Troops” drive.
We thank those who made monetary donations to support transportation to Fort Meade U.S.O. from which the boxes were shipped to troops in Afghanistan. We, also, thank the following for providing drop-off locations: The Ocean Pines Community Center, the Worcester County Library at Ocean Pines, Allstate Insurance in West Ocean City, Copy Central on Cathell RD, Re/Max on Rt. 589, Prudential Pen/Fed Realty on Manklin Creek RD, Community Church at Ocean Pines, The Parke Community Center, and Atlantic Physical Therapy on Cathell Road.
Our prayers are with the troops and our thanks are to everyone who participated in this drive.
Lou Etta McClaflin
(The writer is the chair of the Caring for America program.)