On Aug. 14, 2012, Macon County commissioners voted 3-1 to approve borrowing $1.5 million to purchase new computer equipment for county schools. Commissioner Beale was absent, and Commissioner Haven dissented.
There are several reasons why I don’t think this funding should have been approved.
I understand computer purchases have been the responsibility of the Macon County School System using state funds. That should continue to be the case. Over the past several years the school board has deferred computer purchases. They are accountable for their decisions.
At an April 9, 2012, joint commissioner and school board meeting, then Superintendent Brigman said the system would need $1.2 million in funding to return to a five-year computer replacement cycle. He wanted the county to “bail out” the system for his and the school board’s prior decisions. So the county, with its deep pockets and overly-supportive commissioners, has now taken up his call.
Under North Carolina law, counties provide school facilities, and the state provides everything else. County taxpayers have been very generous providing facilities over the past several years. Taxpayers have also been picking up additional expenses for teacher bonuses, teacher positions — and now computer equipment.
If new mandates from Raleigh school bureaucrats require additional computers for testing, provide state funds to pay for them.
If poor decisions by county school administrators require more money, let them dig into their budget and pay for them as they did in the past.
What is the plan for computer usage? Show me the peerreviewed studies proving computer usage in K-12 improves student performance. Massive increases in spending on the country’s K-12 education system over the past few decades has shown no correlation between spending and student performance.
Now consider the bazaar funding method being used for these computer purchases. The county manager devised the proposal to borrow $1.5 million, rather than pay directly from the county’s bloated fund balance. The fund balance changes continually, but on March 31, 2012, it held nearly $20 million, which was over $8 million more than the commissioner’s goal, and $16 million more than the state’s suggestion.
Based on recent public statements from several commissioners, there is apparently a “secret” and expensive project that is about to be funded from the county’s fund balance. Don’t commissioners think taxpayers should know what this project is, and have a voice in the decision? Is it starting to feel like Franklin’s new ABC store decision where elected officials ignored public input?
When politicians have a pot of taxpayer money sitting around, they will find a way to spend it.
Taxpayers deserve some explanations that make sense. Now. Thank you Commissioner Haven for taking a principled stand representing county taxpayers and open government.
Vic Drummond — Franklin, N.C.