How can we complain?

Published 4:33 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

It’s August, and you know what that means—back to school.

Only this year, it has some pluses and some minuses.

Pluses that the student enrollment of the buildings is drastically changing with the opening of the new high school, and minuses, that because of the economic hardships, we must raise the millage rate (increase property taxes) to meet budget shortages, and teachers will be taking three days furlough.

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Reluctantly, the school board had to bite the bullet.

We have a choice. We can layoff teachers, aides, other support personnel, and face the possibility of decreased academics in the classroom, or we can all cinch up our belts and support the cause.

In the wake of economic adjustments facing everyone, our public officials have diligently worked to preserve the status quo when it comes to increasing property taxes as they look for ways to reduce expenses or seek new sources of revenue. The trade-offs could be downgrading public services and loss of jobs within public service personnel.

The economy already has curtailed garbage collection services, and has seen downsizing in city hall personnel, among other layoffs.

Our unemployment picture in Bainbridge is bleak, with plant layoffs and what were once new and welcome industries, not just shells of buildings gather dust.

As a resident of Bainbridge for the past 18 years, I have always been amazed how year after year government officials have held the line on property taxes.

It wasn’t too long ago, that the first house we owned here had total taxes—city, county and schools—of less than $1,000. And it wasn’t a shed we were living in nor was it a palace, but simply a regular three-bedroom two-bath average Bainbridge home.

I remarked to then Mayor Bill Reynolds that my city taxes during the 1990s amounted to only $100, and if the city doubled that amount, it would be difficult to complain.

One could say almost the same to county commissioners who this year worked long and diligently to hold the line on spending in the wake of decreased revenues, as did the school board.

But I suppose we can get along with reduced services in some areas and wait for better times. Education of our kids is something different. Laying off teachers and programs only cuts into the quality of education that can be offered. If our kids were attending failing schools, failing in state and national testing competitions, the results might be different.

But they are not.

Results show that our kids regularly place as well as or higher than state and national averages in testing. We cannot let those efforts falter.

Our high schoolers are going into a state-of-the art building, and it’s a sure bet outside educators, architects and school designers will be walking those halls also, picking up on the latest in education innovations.

To get the year off to a good start, please remember starting today, there is no such building as “the old high school.” There’s a new sign fronting the building on College Street, which proclaims that here is resides Bainbridge Middle School, home to all seventh- and eighth-graders. All fifth- and sixth-graders are now at Hutto Middle School. West Bainbridge Middle School is now history as is Lillian E. Williams Elementary School in Attapulgus.

To all students, administrators and school personnel, have a great year. New property taxes will help with the shortfall in funds. Our kids are in your hands.

Keep smiling.