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Monday Moan: School board learns unintended consequences rule

By Jeff Salisbury jeffsalisbury@charter.net

In the social sciences, unintended consequences are outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action. The term was popularised in the 20th century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton. (Wikipedia)

Curiouser amister journalism2nd curiouser!” Cried Alice — Lewis Carroll

Things do seem to be getting curiouser and curiouser when it comes to the Wayland school board with as many as seven (count ‘em, 7) different meetings or work sessions scheduled in March.

My understanding is that the three new board members have pretty much insisted various committees and/or the full board meetings happen weekly until the whole budget process is completed.

I do not blame them one bit because I suspect they are likely feeling overwhelmed with the district’s financial situation. There are just so many decisions to make and factors to weigh and looming is an estimated nearly half-a-million-dollar shortfall next year if they do nothing — while all the administration seems to be doing is suggesting more and more ways to spend… make that “borrow” money.

More talk of hundreds of new iPads tops the list – all new ones for grades 7-12 so the “old ones” (now barely 3 years old) can be passed down to grades K-6.

The intended consequences of the two most recent loans are obvious… borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars for iPads… borrow $3 million for five new science classrooms (@ $291,000 a year through 2025 — but each decision came with unintended consequences too.

• How to replace aging buses? With $291,000 the current board could replace three to four buses

• How to find the money for a new baseball field? $291,000 would cover that easily.

• How to update the aging swimming pool? It’s 40 years old this year. I think $291,00 would complete that project nicely.

• How about installing an artificial turf football field? $291,000 would more than cover that.

• And what about preventive maintenance to the many roofs? There’s a plan. But only the worst may be able to be tackled first. $291,000 would repair lots of roofs.

• And parking lots. Same approach as roofs. The eight-year roof plan which became 10 which became 12, might well need to become 15.

• Or overcrowded classrooms? Shouldn’t we be adding more classroom aides not laying existing ones off or cutting hours?

• Or could we even begin to discuss opening the still vacant yet usable Moline Elementary School located in the fastest growing township in all of Allegan County?

• And finally, what about school employees, from cooks and aides and clerical staff and classroom teachers, who want and deserve pay increases. Shouldn’t they really be at the top of the list if we value their service to our children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and kids in our neighborhood? $291,000 would more than cover a 1% raise for all employees annually.

Intended consequences and unintended consequences.

Needs vs Wants.

And the latest unintended consequence? Putting off balancing the program essentials for boys baseball versus girls softball for the far too many years. It is the Title IX issue which some have said as having been something that was akin to the proverbial kicking of the can down the road… right.

But the real issue now is going to be fact that the can = cuts.

Big time cuts.

And every cut will make someone or some persons or some groups completely unhappy.

This budget cannot be balanced without spending cuts in programs and personnel.

The can got kicked down the road by me and previous board members – and I mean me because I was a part of the problem too – I, along with the other board members kept taking administrators’ advice on a variety of projects and took money from the casino revenue and the fund equity to balance the budget as if that was not going to come back to haunt future boards.

Boy was I wrong.

It seems to me, this is going to get worse before it gets better.

We should have been making cuts then.

The board better start making cuts now.

The current board has all of this dumped in its lap – like it or not.

Forgive me for being a broken vinyl record… but… I hope the three new board members take the lead on behalf of the board to:

  1. Question Every Aspect of the District’s Essential and Non-Essential Educational Programming and Personnel (Needs & Wants)
  2. Set General Fund & Casino Revenue Spending Guidelines
  3. Track and Trim All Expenditures & Make Targeted Programs & Personnel Cuts

And beyond that:

  1. “Build ONE Budget” – combine general fund revenue (local, state and federal dollars) and Gun Lake Casino “in lieu of taxes” revenue … then…
  2. “Pay Yourselves First” – restore the fund equity – which dipped from 15% to 7% in four years – by committing to saving 1% to 1.5% per year for AT LEAST the next 5 years… and…
  3. “No More Loans” – resist the temptation to borrow more money on top of the $291,000 annual loan payments to United Bank for the science wing from 2015 to 2025… no loans for iPads, no loans for school buses – no more loans PERIOD.

Board of Education Meetings & Workshops

• March 23, 6:00, Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland.

• April 20, 7:00 p.m., Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland.

• May 18, 7:00 p.m., Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland .

• June 8, 7:00 p.m., Wayland Union Middle School, 701 Wildcat Drive, Wayland.

• June 22, 7:00, Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland.

• July 13, 7:00 p.m., Administration Building, 850 E. Superior, Wayland.

BOARD MEMBERS

• Nancy Thelen, President, Email: nancyboe@waylandunion.net Phone: 616-877-3098

• Tom Salingue, Vice President, Email: tomboe@waylandunion.net Phone: 269-792-2061

• Toni Ordway, Treasurer, Email: ordwayt@waylandunion.net Phone: 269-910-3297

• Theresa Dobry, Secretary, Email: theresaboe@waylandunion.net Phone: 616-681-2119

• Pete Zondervan, Trustee, Email: zondervanp@waylandunion.net Phone: 616-450-1468

• Janel Hott, Trustee, Email: hottj@waylandunion.net  Phone: (h) 269-792-0297  (c) 269-250-0286

• Gary Wood, Trustee, Email: glw_boe@yahoo.com Phone: 616-681-2120.

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