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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Consultant warns of hidden costs in consolidation

During the Burke County Board of Education meeting May 17, consultant Hank Hurd from Rives & Associates LLC said the savings from consolidating schools aren't nearly as good as you'd expect due to hidden costs. I would like to point out that he mentioned he had been involved with five to six previous school consolidations; thus he has previous experience.In fact, the Charlotte Observer has a May 14 article on www.CharlotteObserver.com about additional costs to renovate Charlotte-Mecklenburg consolidated schools. The costs were much higher than projected, about a million dollars higher, which is "eating into projected CMS savings."I believe the hidden costs in Burke County weren't fully accounted for in Superintendent Art Stellar's consolidation report. Yes, Finance Officer Keith Lawson's numbers were accurate, but the "savings" from consolidating schools were not. Since we have already consolidated Hillcrest and Mountain View schools, we should carefully observe all savings and costs - especially hidden costs, such as transportation - for at least a year before shutting down six schools at once.
Most "savings" are not from closing a building, but from losing staff positions. I heard maintenance and utilities savings from shutting a school are roughly $80,000 per year, which is about 16 percent of the estimated $500,000 "savings" per consolidated school. Much of the "savings" we will not see for at least a year or two, since we are required by law to pay for health insurance and unemployment for many of these laid-off employees.
Hank Hurd also supported the school board's decisions not to consolidate six schools, and said that more research needs to be done.
When we incur deficits within our personal budgets, giving up our homes is usually the last resort and not the first. We make sacrifices by reducing our debts, and increase our revenue and efficiencies. Why aren't we doing the same with our Burke County Public Schools?
One way for us to increase our revenue is for the county commissioners to fully fund our public schools according to state recommendations. We cannot afford to lose our children's schools, or over 230 faculty and staff positions. Not only would our children suffer academically, but our local economy would suffer as well. People would move away to find jobs elsewhere, reducing local income, thus affecting the current businesses we have, and deterring other businesses from coming here.
There is a plaque hanging in the county commissioners' board room that says, "The public school is the greatest discovery made by man." That seems hypocritical considering how little we actually fund our Burke County Public Schools versus other counties and states. If our children's' education is actually important to us, then it's time we start putting our money into it!
Citizens of Burke County, we are in a financial crisis. The only way we will be able to work through this is to work together instead of against each other. If we are going to fix the deficit we are in, we cannot be divided, but stand united. I encourage everyone to get involved by attending both board of education and county commissioners' meetings, offering suggestions instead of criticism and asking them what you can do to help. If you are unable to attend the board of education meetings, then please watch them at http://www.ustream.tv/user/angieblalock/videos. Be a part of the solution!

Original Article - http://www2.morganton.com/news/2011/may/25/buchanan-consultant-warns-hidden-costs-consolidati-ar-1121524/

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