Responsible Budgets

Editorials / Feb. 1, 2007 12:00am EST

Responsible Budgets

A good many school districts protest that nothing can be done about ever-rising school budgets. Perhaps administrators in those district ought to take a seat in the corner and take lessons at the superintendant's office of the Orange Southwest Supervisory Union (OSSU)in Randolph

At a time that school expense budgets throughout Vermont are increasing an average of 6% a year, Randolph Union High School will present a budget increase to the voters next Tuesday of just 1.14%. The Randolph Technical Career Center budget is increasing by 1.93%.

Braintree's proposed elementary budget for 2007-08 is up just $193- that's one-tenth of a percent. Randolph's elementary budget is down one percent and Brookfield's is down four percents.

This is not just a one-year phenomenon, either. Supt. Brent Kay and his school principals have been keeping a strong lid on expenses ever since he moved into the district five years ago from Saskatchewan Province in Canada.

Last year, for instance, the RUHS budget increased by less than 1% and the RTCC budget decreased by half a point.

In many school districts, we hear, the number of teachers and other paid staff has continued to rise even while enrollments decline. Not so in the OSSU. Kay reported this week that the district has been able to reduce staffing by almost 14% in five years, keeping up (or down) with lower enrollments.

Also commendable is the leadership position of the current RUHS board in taking the bull by the horns and forcing down the cost of needed repairs at the high school complex. A project that was estimated at $14.8 million, then soared to $23 million is going to sugar off at $10 mllion, it appears, after the board simply said "enough is enough." The conclusion now being reached by the board offers support to the suspicion that RUHS was being taken to the cleaners by its architects and estimating contractors before common sense stepped in.

We suggest voters in Randolph, Braintree, and Brookfield reward the fiscal diligence of school administrators on Tuesday by giving a thumping approval to the high school and technical school budgets in Australian ballot voting in each town.

We also suggest they take time to read the reports of Supt. Kay, RUHS Principal John Holmes, and RTCC Director Bill Sugarman in the special budget supplement in last week's Herald. They are thoughtful documents that give one a new-found respect for the breadth of responsibilites that come with educating our young folk these days.

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