The relationship between the Worcester County Commissioners and the Worcester County Board of Education is no different here than it is in most other jurisdictions.
They are to each other like the sales and news departments of a newspaper: neither one understands the precise nature of the other, but they have no choice but to work together in order to survive.
Further, were one to ask these departments which is the most critical, chances are each would respond, “We are.”
Realistically, you wouldn’t want it to be any other way, since a department – or a board – not married to its mission isn’t going to be that good.
Consequently, the clashing arguments between the board of education and the board of county commissioners over teachers pay raises should be put in perspective.
It is a fact that teachers were passed over for raises multiple times through no fault of their own or the board. But it is also a fact that the commissioners were, just a couple of months ago, looking at a total budget proposal that not only exceeded revenues by $22 million, but also would have consumed their entire reserve fund, thus setting the stage for an even worse time of it next year.
Neither party is responsible for the deep dive in revenues, that being the result of the recession-driven 25 percent drop – roughly $5 billion – in the county’s property tax base.
At the same time, however, spending by government overall did not and could not retreat by that same 25 percent, because it would have gutted the system.
Could the commissioners back then have raised the tax rate gradually to compensate for that loss? Sure, they could and they should have. That, however, didn’t happen, leading the county to where it is today.
Despite the assignment of blame between these two parties in this latest circumstance, this problem began years ago and it was the fault of neither.
The thing is, recognizing and accepting that gets in the way of the pursuit of their individual objectives.