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Never too soon to be thinking budgets

As a child at this time of year, the Erie County Fair provided a mix-bag of emotions. On one hand, the rides, games and great foods was exciting with the midway lit up and the crown jewel of local festivals in full-swing.

On the flip side, it also symbolized that the end of summer was drawing near and summer vacation would soon give way to the start of the school year.

With the 2012 Erie County Fair about to begin its final weekend, it means that the last couple weeks of summer are set to begin (although as an adult it does signal the start of football season).

It also seems that every year, the Monday after the Fair ends, the temperatures dip and it also begins to offer days that feel like the unofficial start of Fall.

There is still summer’s last hurrah, Labor Day weekend, but then the yellow busses will start showing up to pick up the kids and the 2012-13 school year will be underway.

With that, thousands of children’s educations will be in the hands of teachers, administrators and school boards to make decisions we hope will have a positive impact on students.

As students soon head back to the classroom, they will be getting to know new teachers, new subjects and perhaps participate on an athletic or academic team of some sort.

Students deal with their own kinds of pressures and challenges at their respective schools each and every day.

So do school boards and administrators. A common theme every year is that next year’s budget season is going to be even more difficult than the year before.

There is little question that what school boards and administrators want is nothing more than for students to have the best education possible.

The harsh reality is that right now we live in a time with economic uncertainty and our education system is feeling the impact in a major way.

In past years, school boards would begin discussing the budgets publicly in either January or February. Last year, there were budget discussions taking place as early as November.

With state aid continuing to be uncertain each year, and the tax cap levy in full force, the most challenging part of being a school board member will be even more important and budget discussion and ideas should start immediately.

Area school districts have continued to see an exit of quality teachers and district personnel in recent years due to cuts in the budget. This is something difficult to blame boards for. Everyone is feeling the economic crunch and in order to have saved teaching positions, it would have meant raising taxes at levels many people could not afford. One way or another someone is getting hurt. For many people on these boards, it impacts them as many have students in their districts.

It is common to talk about needing to save teaching positions at board meetings. We all want that. So while it may seem early to think about the 2013-14 budget, now is a great time to start throwing out ideas to find creative ways to save jobs and programs, and at the same time, minimize the impact it has on taxpayers.

We do not envy school board members, who do not get paid to serve and make hard decisions for both students and taxpayers. We do admire their service to the community.

They did, on their own free will, decide to run for the school board and budget season is going to come sooner each year.

The heart of budget season is still months away, but we hope board members start to roll up their sleeves now and come up with ideas that are outside the box to save jobs and provide the best possible education. The process is going to continue to get harder each year.


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