Public Spending Questioning A Must
I was intrigued by Editor Steve Green’s choice of words in last week’s “Between The Lines” column in calling me the “most outspoken critic of public spending on education in recent years” along with Commissioner Jim Bunting. As a Worcester County Commissioner, I have always felt that it is our duty as elected officials to question how tax dollars are spent. In 16 years, I never rubber-stamped a single request or a single budget. All requests for budget funding were reviewed carefully by asking first, is it needed, second, can we afford it and third, can we afford to bond it if it is an absolute need? Is this being critical?
During the budget process of May 2014, I asked Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson, “How can we be number one in spending per pupil in the state of Maryland and be 16th in starting teacher salaries?” If this is what you mean by being critical, then I am guilty, but I think the answer to this question is important.
If Worcester County is spending $16,214 per pupil in the current budget year, then how is it spent? (Baltimore City comes second at $15,000 per pupil) This amount does not include $4.8 million of state and federal monies that is used for restricted programs in Worcester County. Out of the review of the budget on that day, came the statement that you credited Commissioner Bunting as saying, “The last two years in a row there was a 2-percent increase in salaries for everybody … if the Board of Ed had applied that as a COLA for the last two years in a row we would be ninth [in teacher pay], but they didn’t [and now we are 16th].”
Starting teacher salaries did not rise, because the Board of Education did not apply it as a COLA to all that would be employed for the coming budget year. Instead the BOE used the COLA money to give steps to existing teachers and staff.
Another “critical” question I asked was to Dr. Jon Andes when he was superintendent. As a commissioner, I had heard that the elementary school teachers were buying classroom supplies with their own money. I wanted to know why this was happening. Dr. Andes told me that each principal had an allocation and it is they who decide what to give to the classroom teachers, not the BOE and not the commissioners. But in the 13 categories funded by the commissioners for the BOE there is a slot for money per classroom, so where did that money go? Is this being critical?
In the last four budgets, I have voted against two. I voted against one budget because it did not include funding for the renovation of Snow Hill High School. I voted against another budget because it raised taxes by seven cents. Commissioner Bunting and I disagreed on what it would take to balance the budget that year. He felt a three-cent increase was needed and I felt that we needed a four-cent tax increase, but we both voted against the seven-cent tax increase. That same budget year that taxes were raised seven cents, the county had a budget surplus from the previous year of $6.9 million. In the last budget year, all commissioners voted in favor of the budget, which included a 3-percent increase in salaries for all county employees, including Board of Education employees.
The hardest thing that commissioners have to do is the yearly budget. No department gets everything that it wants, especially with the economic uncertainty of the last few years. A large portion of our tax base is assessment values. When those values drop at the rate they have and do not rebound quickly, it is a difficult job to maintain funding for future budgets. The Worcester County Commissioners established the Budget Stabilization Fund to be used when the county tax income was down. I had hoped that the economy would rebound at a faster pace. Until it does, then someone needs to keep asking the question of how the money will be spent. Someone needs to be critical.
Virgil L. Shockley
Attack On County Officials Unnecessary
On one hand, I commend you for printing the truth of the Worcester County Board of Education budget sleight of hand tactics and its incessant demands for more and more diminishing tax dollars. Do the top 10 WorCo BoE bureaucrats, who collectively make over $1.2 million per year, feel so strongly about the need to give the actual educators another raise that they will volunteer to reduce their own salaries by an equal percentage amount?
On the other hand, your Dec. 5 attack in your “Between The Lines” column on the Worcester County Commissioners is totally uncalled for. It might seem to some that you are actually trying to foment disunity in the newly elected body.
Similarly, your characterization of statements of fact as “mudslinging” during the recent election campaign reveals the conflict you are experiencing. Now the federal debt has surpassed $18 trillionyou’re your children’s children’s children will be forced to deal with the consequences.
At this point, shall we continue the suspension of disbelief that all is well, or shall we seek the freedom that comes with truth? Isn’t it time we acknowledged the truth and began the process of working our way out of this? After all, it is for the children.
Gwen L. Cordner
This is a letter of thanks to all those who helped to make the 32nd annual Ocean City Christmas parade such a success.
There are many fine community parades here on the Shore. The officials of those parades I’m sure echo my thanks to all the people who donate their time to make sure these parades run smoothly and provide entertainment and the seasonal spirit to all those observing the parades.
I would like to thank everyone from the Public Works Department who provides us with the judge’s stand, bleachers, and the P.A. System. A special thanks to the Ocean City Police Department for all their hard work in seeing that the traffic runs smoothly on Coastal Highway while the parade is taking place.
A special thanks goes out to Councilman Doug Cymek and his volunteers who coordinate the line-up, start the parade and see that it flows smoothly. This is no easy task believe me.
Thanks also to Milton Warren at Delmarva Two-way Radio who has graciously provided us with use of his radios during the parade. Thanks also to Hitrnan for being our MC for the past three years.
The Christmas parade is a professionally judged parade. Thank you to the National Judges Association for sending three talented professional judges.
I thank the Gold Coast Mall Merchants Association for their continued support and for providing all the funds for this parade. I thank the community and news media for its interest and involvement. All this blends together into an enjoyable first Saturday in December in the resort when we all enjoy the Ocean City Christmas Parade.
Elaine V. Jarvis
Dinner Plans Underway
The Noel Community is preparing for the 17th Annual Dinner. With your support, The Noel Community will provide clothe bags with precooked meals from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s by-the-Sea on 3rd and Baltimore Streets in Ocean City.
While still rebuilding, St. Paul’s by-the-Sea welcomes the Noel Community to celebrate Christmas. Tables will be set-up in the parish hall for guests to sit down and enjoy breakfast sandwiches, donuts, coffee, companionship, visits with Santa, decorations, and music. This event has become an important part of the Christmas celebration for many including the homeless, unemployed, underemployed, shut-in, and those who are alone. All are welcome.
In addition to the Christmas Dinner, The Noel Community provides lunch every Saturday and several weekdays during the year. Volunteers actively work with the local food pantries, shelters, and social service groups to identify what is most needed by the individuals and families. Your donations are used by the volunteers to purchase and deliver these items. Tens of thousands (or more) of canned goods, dry goods, fruits, desserts, toiletries, clothing, paper products, cleaning supplies, baby items are donated to the local community thanks to your generosity. The Noel Community is committed to providing an enjoyable and positive outreach environment for everyone.
Checks made payable to the Noel Community can be mailed to 302 North Baltimore Avenue, Ocean City Md. 21842. Your financial support to purchase items is appreciated. Donations of non-perishable food and toiletries from individuals or organizations will be appreciated on Dec. 24 from 10 a.m.-noon at St. Paul’s by-the-Sea.
The Noel Community with the generosity from Ocean City, Ocean Pines, Berlin, Fenwick, Bishopville, Selbyville, and all who donate makes Christmas a day of celebration. The Noel Community appreciates your support and asks you to consider their request again this year.
If you have questions please call 410-289-3453.
The Noel Community