Usage of funds doesn't add up
While I understand the difficult decisions the Pinellas County School Board faces regarding budget cuts, I must address my concerns over the usage of their funds historically.
In 2005/2006, enrollment was approximately 108,000 students. The budget was almost $1.3 billion. That translates to nearly $12,000 per student. The following year the budget swelled an additional $100 million. However, enrollment was reduced by nearly 2,000 students. We lost 2,000 students and spent an additional $100 million? Does basic economics not apply to the school system?
Fast forward to the 2009/2010 school year. The budget was $1.463 billion. Again, enrollment was down. It is approximately 104,000 students. Translation, more than $14,000 per student. I can only assume that next year, enrollment will be down again. Therefore, why is the loss of $26 million so tragic? When I asked Pinellas County Schools a few years ago, their answer was, "You don't understand."
All too often those that argue about the "cutting" of funds have never even examined those numbers. They only hear the phrase "budget cuts" and begin to protest. The district spends enormous amounts on things like Apple computer systems for students (Apple has very little presence in the professional business place) and "smart board" projection systems, which are incredibly expensive. With each new layer of these technical systems comes an extra expense to maintain them.
There should be detailed examination of the layers of bureaucracy in place to manage a $1.4-billion education system. How much is spent on the administrators, their staff, their expenses and benefits, the lavish trips around the nation for "conferences" and education seminars? Is it all really necessary? While I do not wish to see people lose their jobs, we cannot continue to swell the budget to educate a shrinking student base.
Your argument should not be "Don't cut the budgets." It should be, "Why is it costing more every year to educate fewer and fewer students in Pinellas?"
Richard Saunders, Largo
Re: Higher taxes may result from delay in fixing EMS story, May 9
Cut wages to fix budget shortfall
I found it telling that the four possible solutions listed to fix the $13.6-million Emergency Medical Services shortfall does not include the most obvious: cut back or eliminate the increase in wages and benefits.
The article states that the shortfall is "mostly from higher salaries and benefits for paramedics." It goes on to say that between wage and benefit increases, paramedics will earn on average 6.3 percent more in 2011.
I realize that paramedics provide a valuable service, but who gets a 6.3 percent increase in this day and age? When revenue falls in the private sector, companies cut back on expenses, especially wages. The public sector, however, just increases fees and taxes. No wonder the average public sector employee now makes significantly more than the average private sector employee.
Scott Stolz, Tarpon Springs
Officials should justify price gap
If somebody would do the math, you would find that Dunedin pays about $80 per year per capita for the Pinellas County sheriff to patrol that city and Clearwater pays around $300 per year per capita for its police.
While there may be some good reasons for the difference, wouldn't you think the elected officials would have been asking why a long time ago? That's a huge difference to justify!
It ain't rocket science, it's just another example of government incompetence.
Jim Harpham, Palm Harbor
Library contest is frivolous expense
Clearwater and Pinellas County currently are looking for ways to cut costs to meet shrinking budgets. People are being told of public facility closures, reduced access or even loss of services.
On May 12, the St. Petersburg Times carried an item regarding the Clearwater Library, which is hosting a contest where individuals are encouraged to send in photos of their pets. Some library employee is going to be responsible to assemble these photos and post them on a website, judge them and then award a $50 gift card to the winner.
Is this truly a core function of the library? Can we look at reducing this type of frivolous expense instead of complete closures of city facilities? Where is management in these decisions?
John Collins, Clearwater