Editorials

Edwardsville school students sacrifice now, but economy will see the damage in future

The Edwardsville High School choir performs a charity concert on Jan. 4. The school district cut $2.5 million from its budget and laid off 101 workers, but is still facing huge deficits that it is seeking a tax increase to fill.
The Edwardsville High School choir performs a charity concert on Jan. 4. The school district cut $2.5 million from its budget and laid off 101 workers, but is still facing huge deficits that it is seeking a tax increase to fill. News-Democrat

Edwardsville’s economic base is largely built on education, with a 14,000-student state university next door. That base is also furthered by education, preparing the future’s workforce. But even beyond that, the community’s sense of self is based on education, with many residents seeing themselves as progressive and enlightened thanks to their educations.

So maybe Edwardsville and the surrounding communities should take a hard look at their support for the public schools where all that education begins.

On Nov. 6 the Edwardsville School District 7 leaders asked for their first property tax rate increase since 1978. It failed by about 1,000 votes out of 28,000 cast.

So the school leaders decided that was a narrow enough margin to ask again this April 4.

In our view, being fiscally conservative with public dollars is paramount. Yet we endorsed the referendum in November. We endorse it again now.

The district was hit hard by the recession, yet cut heavily to live within its means. Enrollment remains at about 7,500 students who are being educated with 101 fewer employees. A $4.5 million deficit was cut to $2 million, but the state is failing to send the money promised and Edwardsville may need to borrow another $5 million. That would bring their total debt to $7 million, all blamed on the state making promises and them withholding the checks.

Property taxpayers are being asked to increase the rate by 55 cents per $100 assessed valuation, or $183 more on a $100,000 home. That keeps them in line with other large school districts in the area.

There is a lot of debt to manage. Old texts and other materials need to be replaced. Security needs enhancement. Raises are due. The district already spends about $3,000 less per student on instruction than the state average.

How much leaner should those schoolchildren get?

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