Imagine two boards of education entering the Great Recession.
Board A has loads of fat — extra teachers, too many administrators and a full astrology curriculum. It levies a 15-mill tax and has a $10 million local budget.
Board B is the model of efficiency. It runs a tight ship, has absolutely no waste and no extra courses. It too levies a 15-mill tax and has a $10 million local budget.
Which system is better equipped to serve the public when Gov. Sonny Perdue and the General Assembly slash the budget as the economy tanks?
If you think the tight and lean system — Board B — you’re wrong. The wasteful system will be in better shape to survive. Its students will suffer less and it will be better able to provide the core services students need.
That’s because it has fat to trim without damaging its core programs. It could lay off excess staff, slash its silly classes and tighten up. But Board B, having no extras, has nothing to cut during the lean times except critical staff and programs.
Neither can go back to the taxpayers for more money. No one can do that during a recession, because no matter what the tax rate is, it’s too high in the minds of the public.
Board B’s reward for being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money will be to go bankrupt because it could not operate under the pressure of reduced state funding.
(Sadly, in the eye of the public, there is no government that is not wasteful, no government — and that includes school systems — not perceived as being bloated, yet there is no reward for a government for doing its job well and serving the public with efficiency.)
The value of this recession is that it teaches us as individuals and governments how to get by with less. We’ve all had to cutback. But for people or institutions who were already living on the edge and who had no way to cut back, it brought disaster.
Our individual thrift can provide investments and savings to tide us over the lean years whether caused by the economy, job loss or some other personal setback. Governments and school systems can only put so much money into the rainy day fund before the taxpayers and ratepayers will complain about the hoarding of money and demand reductions.
I doubt there is a school system in Georgia that had sufficient reserves to get it through this recession.
Humans store fat to burn off for energy in times of food scarcity, a calorie banking system, you might say. The recession suggests that institutions, including governments, will be better served if they too maintain a layer of fat.
Who would’a thunk it? There’s a virtue in government excess.
Mark Beardsley is editor of The Commerce News. He lives in Commerce.
Hold on there Beardsley. Board A has a full Astrology curriculum. You make light of this but do you realize that Board A will realize that Neptune and Mercury are in retrograde, they will know that cataclismic budget is coming and they will be better prepared to handle the shortage.
Lunacy runs abundant!
03/12/10 at 07:22 PM
This man has certainly encountered mental lapses. Governement waste is good indeed. Oh shoot, I just noticed he's from Commerce. Never mind. Oh BTW Mr. Beardsley, come on up to Banks County for supper, we need your tax dollars for Joe's toilet paper run.
Isn't it possible that Board A has more "fat" because they have already met the needs that Board B meets? Couldn't Board A just be going above and beyond the minimum requirement for their students? Certainly that Board still has more wiggle room to cut back to just "essentials," but is it bad to offer more than the bare minimum to our children?