Choice of sheriff is pure politics
Isn't it convenient that the new sheriff in Pasco County has a wife who is also a lobbyist for such major corporations such as U.S. Sugar and HCA Healthcare?
Gee, HCA, now where did I hear that name before? Oh yeah, the corporation of which Rick Scott used to be CEO. Wow, what a coincidence! And Mrs. Nocco is also a political fundraiser as she was in 2010 when Rick Scott held a fundraiser at Yankee Stadium to help finance his campaign. And to whom did the invited guests to this fundraiser need to RSVP? Mrs. Nocco, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel.
It is time to take the politics out of the appointment, nomination and election process for law enforcement officials. A candidate's qualifications should be based on experience and merit and not political affiliation. These positions should be nonpartisan since appointing someone to a position such as Rick Scott did with Chris Nocco smacks of political nepotism.
John Honoski, Trinity
Starving schools is shortsighted
Through calls for the elimination of impact fees to schools and numerous public meetings from the School Board, it is clear that the School Board is facing a serious budget issue. It seems like every year we face the same issue: the School Board needs money that it doesn't have. The state cuts the education budget and we're forced to make cuts.
We're asked if we can cut sports, but I ask: Why? Sports provide an after-school program for thousands of Pasco students and give an opportunity for many to attend college on scholarships. We're asked about music and art programs, and I ask: Why? Not only do many Pasco students receive scholarships from their passion, but this is where many of their careers begin, in our arts programs. Why ruin the dreams and hopes of thousands of students to save millions of dollars?
But if we don't make cuts, that means layoffs. And even with layoffs, the effect will not only be to the teachers who have made their life choice to be a teacher, but also back to our students. Our teachers are some of the lowest paid in this country and haven't seen a pay raise for some years. And yet, they go to college, get a degree to be able to teach. They don't do this because they're forced to; it is their decision. Why send our teachers to the unemployment line to save millions of dollars?
I'm not afraid to say we need a tax increase to fund our schools, teachers and students. This is what happens when a country and state don't properly fund their schools.
We can't continue to ask for cuts and more cuts because we will reach a point when we start affecting the students. If we start asking for cuts now, we will start affecting our students. And if anyone is serious about adding more high-paying jobs to Pasco County, they will need to realize that will not occur with the schools and budget we have today.
If the country and state are willing to invest in education, that doesn't mean we can't. But to do so, we will need a tax increase to invest. We can't continue to say "cut" because we have exceeded that point. Now, we need to give to receive.
Mike Kramer, New Port Richey
Stop building, fixing up schools
Pasco County taxpayers may rightly question the need to lay off 600 to 800 school employees due to a projected budget shortfall. The reality is that the taxpayers provide the school district with more than sufficient funds to keep everyone on the job and give them the pay raises that they are entitled to under the terms of their employment contracts.
The problem is that too large a portion of tax dollars is channeled to the district's capital improvements budget and not enough is being allocated to operating expenses. Capital improvements include major renovation projects, land acquisition and new school construction. Operating expenses cover the salary and benefits for the employees that work in those facilities.
When you consider that Pasco school employees were told that the school district could not afford to pay them their scheduled pay increases for each of the past three years but could afford to spend roughly $50 million on Fivay High School, you begin to gain some real insight into the problem.
In 2010-11, Pasco schools allocated some $70 million for capital projects, at the same time bemoaning a projected $60 million budget shortfall that will necessitate the lay off of some 600 to 800 of our friends and neighbors. Now you can begin to understand the anger, frustration and low morale felt by district employees.
In fairness, the School Board states it is unable to transfer funds (your taxpayer dollars) from the capital budget to operating expenses without the express consent of our state Legislature and that the Legislature will not grant approval.
I don't know any of my friends or neighbors that are starting major renovation projects to the properties that we own in this economy. Most of us are trying to make do the best we can with what we already have. In these difficult times, I think that is a good policy for the school district to follow as well.
It is time for all Pasco County taxpayers to contact our state legislators and request — in fact, insist — that our dollars stop being used to fund annual multimillion-dollar construction projects when those funds are needed to preserve precious jobs within our community. Those who are facing unemployment will greatly appreciate your support.
Brian K. Lott, Bayonet Point
Schools chief should step up to the plate | April 24 C.T. Bowen column
Superintendent, board know roles
I do not know any of the individuals central to the impact fee decision in Pasco County. I am but a retired superintendent from the state of Pennsylvania who served in that position for 24 years.
It is neither the responsibility of the School Board nor the superintendent to make deals with builders to subsidize a private, profitmaking business, regardless of their status as the county's largest industry. It is the responsibility of the county commissioners, whose responsibility is to the county as a whole, to decide such things.
Of course the teachers are frustrated; if they were not, it would be highly unusual. It is not the responsibility of the superintendent to better the morale of the employees, nor that of the School Board to do so. Actually they cannot achieve it anyway; therefore it is sheer folly to believe it. Is it the responsibility of the teachers union to make better the morale of the superintendent, or the board? What utter nonsense. The thought reflects a complete lack of understanding of human behavior and psychology.
Regarding the cited working relationship between the superintendent and the board, there is often tension between board members and the superintendent, and the union and the superintendent; this is not abnormal, and in fact it can be good.
The relationship must, however, be sufficiently sound such that the superintendent is respected to a level which enables the guiding and persuading of the board members toward the making of informed decisions. That plus the administration of the district are the two primary responsibilities of a school superintendent.
Editor Bowen cited a consultant's report indicating: the superintendent to be strong-willed (well, ought the head of a large enterprise be weak-willed?), that employees believe the superintendent stifles creativity and innovation, and that the feedback of principals is sought but ignored. The "stifling of creativity and innovation" is a very common criticism of school superintendents, and usually the province of teachers. It is, however, poor form to seek advice if not sincere.
If nothing else, my 24 years as a superintendent demonstrated it was an easier task to administer the district and a more difficult task to have board members understand their role and fulfill it, namely the making of informed decisions toward the best education for the children and young adults, given the resources available.
Now Cynthia Armstrong, the board member who stood against the reduction in the impact fee, not only met her responsibility as a board member, she evidenced the knowing of her role as a school director. She is to be admired.
Editor Bowen is correct, in stating the strong leader must adapt to existing conditions. Essential to the success of the school leader is knowing who the strongest and most capable administrators are, supporting them, and not overmanaging them. With the best administrators, or for that matter, any skilled, gifted or talented individual, it is imperative to not get in their way. To try to micro-manage a school system as large and complex as Pasco's is an impossibility.
Robert A. Zito, Ph.D.,
New Port Richey