Trying to find the funds to close the holes in a multi-million dollar budget is the challenge facing Upper Perkiomen School District officials. They are not alone as many other school districts in the commonwealth are facing similar dilemmas.
The word is out that outsourcing certain custodial and maintenance services will be suggested as a way to trim $214,000 in the next budget year.
Over the past week, rumors have spread like wildfire throughout the community regarding other recommendations that could be made at tonight’s meeting of the Upper Perkiomen School Board. They include discontinuing certain musical programs, like band and choir, and woodshop classes. These are rumors and we’ll have to wait until the meeting to sort out the facts.
Negotiations also continue regarding the upcoming contract with educators. Is an agreement within reach or are the parties still far apart?
Of the recent financial dilemma, a local business official opined in a conversation with this writer that it’s the taxpayers fault because they don’t want their taxes raised. There are others who feel the same way. They look at the problem and automatically believe that the only way to solve it is to “find more money” in the form of increased taxes for local taxpayers.
Taxpayers understand that taxes rise. What they want in return is a level of comfort in knowing that spending is not going unchecked. They want to know that waste and wasteful spending is not part of a culture of management and is not accepted by anyone who spends taxpayer dollars. It may or may not be that way, but how is that information communicated to the public? Actions often speak louder than words. To many taxpayers, it’s what they see that counts, not what they hear.
Were the walls painted because they needed it, or because someone didn’t like the color? Why would we build new offices that aren’t being used? Has the expensive heating system been abandoned for another alternative and at what cost or savings? Are administrators working a 40-hour week during the summer when 10-hour, 4-day weeks replace the 8-hour, 5-day weeks? The questions from the public go on. Is any of this true? Unfortunately, the public often doesn’t learn about the issues until a crisis arises.
Did we really need to buy this or did we have to spend so much on that? Lessons can be learned from past actions and corrected for future decisions. In all cases, communicating to the people who pay the bills is vital.
Before any jobs are outsourced or any programs cut, ensure that everything has been done to cut waste and wasteful spending. Prove that cutting expenses in one line-item won’t result in an increase in another. Then communicate that to the taxpayers.
When the potential for a crisis arises, officials must communicate their story to the public first – hopefully, as it develops. One of the benefits of that is gaining public input before final decisions are made. Failure to do so only feeds the doubts that rumors or half-truths create, and by that time trust has deteriorated making your version of the events a harder sell.
The taxpayers of the Upper Perkiomen School District are responsible, not gullible. They will pay for what is needed, not wasted. It’s up to officials to show their wants are needs and that tax dollars won’t be wasted. In today’s continuing, tough economic times, just saying so doesn’t cut it.