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Do it for the children, and for yourselves

Posted: May 15, 2014 9:36 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2014 5:00 a.m.

I listened intently to a presentation given to the Kershaw County Council by representatives of the Kershaw County School District at the council meeting this week. It’s my job to listen. But I was also quite impressed with what Kershaw County Board of Trustees Chairwoman Mara Jones and Kershaw County School District Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson had to say. It’s the budget season for most government bodies, including the county council and the school district and Jones and Wilson explained the financial challenges of running the district and what they hope to see improved over the next year.

I can’t help but question someone’s motives when they ask for taxpayer money. I know that must sound kind of harsh, but I don’t mean I’m looking for any sinister intentions. I’ll leave that for others. What I mean is, we should all ask or at least think, “why do they want or need this money? What’s in it for us, the taxpaying citizens of the county?” I often hear the phrase “return on investment.” In fact, those words were said at the meeting and apparently the return on investment for good schools and teachers can be good.

It’s clear that the financial requests put forth by the school district are done with the purest motive I can think of -- to better the future of Kershaw County children and, in turn, each and every one of us in one way or another. Economic development is a big topic in this county and the decision makers often say the key to attract new business to Kershaw County and to expand and improve what we already have is to offer a well-educated and trained workforce. How do we do that? Forgive my simplicity, but we educate and train them! It’s not a complicated issue, although how to get there surely has its challenges.

Imagine the benefits of having new industries coming into our county. Immediately, they would put many of our well-educated and trained people to work. The new industries and their workers would contribute to the county funds with their taxes and help the local economy by living here and spending their paychecks here on homes, gasoline, groceries, utilities and the other necessities of life. Some of that new tax revenue could in turn be used to further improve our schools and technical education centers, creating a snowball effect that would make the next generation even better prepared with skills beneficial to modern industry. I really think this could be a good example of “the sky’s the limit.” Success does indeed breed success.

OK, now I have to look at the financial issue from the other side of the fence. That doesn’t make me a fence jumper, but it’s always good to see anything from both sides. That helps one to understand why someone could possibly be opposed to anything as worthwhile as giving more money to our schools. The county, like most every county, has a tight budget and the staff and council have to consider many things and make tough decisions to craft and approve a balanced budget, as state law requires. I’ll admit I’m very glad I’m not responsible for deciding what to deem a priority. Should it be law enforcement, fire safety, schools, parks and recreation, solid waste disposal, road improvements and repairs or wastewater treatment? The answer is it should be all of those and all the ones that don’t come immediately to my mind.

But that’s not reality and it never will be, unless the taxpayers are burdened with a big increase in what they have to pay for those services. Nobody wants that, but cost increases are a real fact of this world. Look how fuel, groceries, clothing and every consumable you can name has gone up in cost (actually almost all of that goes back to fuel prices).

The school district’s administration, staff and governing board are to be applauded for the accomplishments they have been able to reach with the funds they’re allocated. Is it enough? No, and I’m afraid it never will be. But if a tax increase is needed to properly fund the education of our youngsters, I hope we’ll all keep in mind what a benefit that translates to … for all of us.

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