Garrett School Closures Imminent, Despite County Funding and Plea

The Garrett County Board of Education yesterday voted to close two grade schools, citing fiscal issues. This despite a detailed letter from the County Commissioners committing funding support to help stave off the decision to do so.

From coverage in the Cumberland Times News:

The Garrett County Board of Education voted to close Dennett Road and Kitzmiller elementary schools at a special meeting Tuesday.

The decision was made despite receiving $500,000 from the Board of Garrett County Commissioners earlier in the day for fiscal year 2013 and their suggestion to keep the schools open.

The actual letter from the County Commissioners, spekking out a range of fiscal issues, illuminates not only the vexing issues facing county finances in general, but also the limits to county government authority to exercise judgment in fiscal or management policy within the school administration. In the letter, the county makes recommendations and suggestions to the Board of Education, but clearly is unable to bind any decisions, even as they provide funding sought to remedy the school closures.

From the county’s letter:

Additional conditions of this additional appropriation and provisions of approval are as follows:

1. The Board of Education is encouraged to continue to review ways to reduce numbers without eliminating the jobs of new employees including not filling vacant positions.
2. The Board of Commissioners encourages the Board of Education to collaborate with the County in order to identify areas where overlapping services and practices may be consolidated and or reduced in order to mitigate costs related to the maintenance of effort including our recent offer to allow the use of County Government vehicles by Board of Education staff.
3. The Board of Commissioners encourages the Board of Education to continue to engage the public, central office staff, instructional staff, and administrative personnel for input in ways to enhance and maximize operations as well as consider all options and proposals that can generate savings.

Read the County’s full letter here.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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