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February 11, 2010

Are Taxpayers Really That Stupid?

Joan Marie Aquilino

Many moons ago I suggested that the Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) lease out the top floor of the new central office building to pay for the rest of it rather than stealing money from the children and the operating portion of the budget. However, it was told that couldn't happen 'because' FCPS can't 'make' money.


They also turned a deaf ear when I suggested the children from Lincoln Elementary use the central office building until their school could be rebuilt. Children in the Taj Mahal? That will never happen.


Once again, I remind everyone that the new central office building is being built with funds that should be going directly toward the education of our children and not to build a plush office building to house adults. I’m going to add insult to injury now! There will also be extra unused empty office space just waiting for the adult population to grow enough to fill it. The Board of Education claims that this was all approved when money was better. Well, then, why weren’t they better prepared?


Isn't it all about the children? Isn't the motto Children First?


Anyone mad enough yet to do anything about it? If not, I’m about to add more fuel to the fire.


I was told the school system could not 'make money.' I knew that was “a crock of the well-known substance” (quote borrowed from former County Commissioner Mark Hoke) they were trying to sell me.


So, how about this? How about if we actually solve a problem instead of only causing them? If there are not enough students in Sabillasville Elementary School to keep it open, then move administrators there to fill that empty space. A new cooling system was installed so you’ll be comfy. Then have the Career & Technology Center students rehab the Church Street building and lease that out or move back in. Then move onto the next building and repair that one. Use it as training ground for students wishing to go into the trades. I’ll even talk to some of those evil developers and see if they want to help.


FCPS does make money! The latest being: Cell tower poles to replace stadium light poles for enhanced cell service. I knew of this because I was part of the group that developed cell tower ordinances, but I never gave the financial benefits much thought. Several high schools, have, will have, or are in the process of approvals for these cell poles.


The companies approach the schools for interest, get appropriate approvals, pay the school $25,000 up front and then an ongoing lease. I’ve heard they also install cameras, which help the school with filming games and enhanced security. Pretty sweet deal, I’d say. You can’t lease out office space, but you can lease light poles. You can’t lease out office space, but you do rent space in schools. Shall I go on?


Where in the budget is that income shown, or is that site-based management money that the public doesn't get a clear and truthful accounting of – or how it's used. A side thought, are sports boosters, or county taxpayers, refunded money paid to put the poles up in the first place. Getting angry yet?




Check out the Board of Education/Board of County Commissioners meeting held Tuesday, January, 19, 2010. I’ll supply the link. [] Go directly to 2:00.


Commissioner John L. “Lennie” Thompson asks the school board to reconsider its stance on the recently approved countywide school portion of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The school board should have been on board with this newest regulation because it was all about them and giving them tools to stop overcrowding of schools.


When asked why they refused to stand with the commissioners, the board members’ answers were varied but eye opening. Words being thrown around were solvency, legal advice, elected officials, etc. As soon as I heard that, it became crystal clear what was going on. They wouldn’t support the county’s measures in part because they feared the county would then turn and do to them what they had just done to municipalities.


This school board is running scared and its elitist world is crumbling. Daryl Boffman got very antsy and wanted this discussion to stop. Katie Groth backed him up and almost scolded Donna Crook prior to her comments to keep it general.


So will we now see ‘Norms’ come out for comments? This exchange is worth viewing by every taxpayer because you are being ripped off. They do nothing to help themselves, yet they want you to foot their bills.


As soon as the school board could table the conversation, and the commissioners members threw up their hands in disgust, Bonnie Borsa – with hardly a breath taken – started in on Maintenance of Effort money and how they need it.


Give me a break! You smack the people in the face who just asked for your help, yet you immediately demand money.


The school board needs a major reality check. They don’t get it, and I’ve got major concerns that they are the ones left to make decisions on our children’s education. They can massage budgets to say exactly what they want. What else are they massaging to say what they want said? Can we trust anything they present?


During a recent school board chat show, another startling comment was revealed, ‘because of decreased enrollment it was hurting their budget.’ The $12,500 cost per student is supposed to be the needed funds to educate one child. If that were the case, then decreased enrollment should not have an adverse affect on the budget.


That comment told me that there is plenty of flex in that $12,500-plus figure per student, and that it is very much inflated.


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