Letter to the Editor: ‘Level funding’ will harm citizens

Editor:

Before a tax rate is set on April 25, it is important for citizens to know that calls for “level funding” do not mean “business as usual” for our school division.

“Level funding” means cuts to education. With “level funding,” covering mandated retirement and health plan increases alone will require reallocating over $750,000 away from programs, positions, instructional supplies, extracurricular activities, etc., leaving nothing to fund any other increased mandates, including those for special education. In addition to those crippling cuts, “level funding” fails to address the other items presented, many year after year, in the needs-based budget built with the input of our teachers, counselors, administrators, superintendent, etc. – the experts immersed in education every day.

Mandates are not the only hurdles to overcome and needs don’t vanish just because they go unfunded. With every passing year of inadequate funding, it gets harder and harder to make due while attempting to stay current as innovation in education continues to evolve. However, the impacts of cuts suggested by “level funding” are a direct hit to our students in both the short and long term.

Consequences of “level funding” with no thoughtful course of action for future planning will rip through other county departments with the same detrimental side effects, further burdening the county’s ability to continue to provide quality services like emergency, safety and social services. “Level funding” does nothing to address any advancement for the revenue generators that are tourism and economic development. Yet, budget cycle after cycle, the only solution our departments are offered is to fight among themselves for scraps as we nickel and dime our way to mediocrity.

Continuing the chronic cycle of dangerously cutting beyond the bone, insufficiently funding and under-staffing the critical needs our citizens depend on only perpetuates the harmful narrative that our community is not worthy of purposeful investment. It’s time to make the health, well-being and future longevity of Shenandoah County our top priority by doing the hard work it takes to find realistic and strategic solutions to sufficiently address the costs of providing quality county services now and in the future.
Katie Freakley, Woodstock
School Board member, District 4