It’s been said thousands of times and is most often heard around election time — government needs to be run like a business.
Although it’s candidate rhetoric most of the time, it was the reason cited by the Worcester County Commissioners this week when five of the seven voted to delay the Snow Hill High School project. The commissioners said it would be revisited next year and the plan would be to approve it then.
This is a shame because the school is in terrible shape and badly needs a renovation project to address its aging infrastructure and provide a better, more modern learning environment for students.
Nonetheless, the right business decision was made here. The county does not have the money to do this major project currently and it shouldn’t spend what it does not have or dip into reserves.
All too often, governments, like many businesses, spend money they don’t have under the pretense it will be financed over time and better days are ahead. They live beyond their means, and that’s a dangerous way to do business. These uncertain financial times require a new methodology.
However, that doesn’t mean Snow Hill residents and students do not have reason to be frustrated. Board of Education President Bob Hulburd, a Snow Hill High graduate, has a right to be upset, and he should direct his focus to making sure the project is not delayed further next year.
The Snow Hill community has waited too long for the high school, typically sources of pride among residents, to get some love from the county, and their anxiety is understandable and legitimate.
What makes this week’s decision even more painful for many is it comes within a month of Pocomoke High School’s project completion being celebrated. That renovation nearly doubled the school, adding 13 more classrooms, computer labs, a new media center, gymnasium, cafeteria and an athletic complex. A number of other unseen improvements were made including energy-efficient features.
The Board of Education was hoping to continue the momentum and goodwill inspired by the Pocomoke project by keeping the Snow Hill High renovation and addition project on track for a start next year sometime. If that were to happen, Showell Elementary School would be the next focal point.
The commissioners say they will revisit the Snow Hill school next year around this time, but there’s no guarantee the financial picture in Worcester will be any better next year. They all but guaranteed the Snow Hill people it would be approved next year, while also talking about property taxes being increased to help make the funding issue a bit clearer.
For the last couple years, the commissioners have been privately predicting a tax increase was inevitable to address the complicated issue associated with declining property values across the country. All that needs to be known is revenue is going to plummet while expenditures, such as health insurance and pension dollars, rise modestly.
We expect the commissioners to increase property taxes next spring (halfway between their election terms, of course). Some commissioners think it will be tolerated by most residents if the funding is dedicated to education.
We don’t believe that’s true, but Snow Hill High School students and teachers certainly deserve better, and that may be the only way to make this project happen.