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Our View: Answerable to no one?




The Columbus school board answers to no one. 


Or so it seems. 


When recently asked to appear before the body that appointed them -- the Columbus City Council -- the school board declined, on the advice of their attorney. 


According to a just-released opinion from the attorney general''s office, the school board, though appointed by the City Council, is autonomous -- as it should be -- and so isn''t required, by law, to assemble itself at the will of the city. 


However, the City Council, like the taxpayers it will affect, wanted answers about the school district''s budget. District officials had reported needing a 9-mill local tax increase to balance their budget. Monday, the school board finalized a budget, requesting a 2.9-mill increase that still will result in a shortfall when the fiscal year ends in June 2012. 


While it may not be their legal obligation, it is, at minimum, a professional courtesy for the school board to respond to the City Council. The council -- buffeted by the winds of public opinion, unlike the appointed school board -- was responding to outcry from citizens who were bracing for a tax hike and wanted answers, very few of which were coming from district central office. 


We''re reminded of the comparison between the making of laws and sausage. The same can be said of school budgets. The process is not a thing of beauty. Yet, with all the speculation flying about, the board should be accessible and forthright. 


At the same time it refused to meet with the City Council, the school board held its own press conference, about the budget. It also made plans to meet with the board of trustees for the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link. 


But when called to meet with the Columbus City Council about the budget -- again, this is the board that appoints the school board -- they refused. 


Appointed though they may be, school board members still are public officials. Stewardship of taxpayer dollars is one of their most important responsibilities. 


The city plays a major role in this, especially when taxes need to be raised. The City Council will be the ones to levy the taxes -- and bear the brunt of taxpayer displeasure -- to provide for the school district''s needs. 


They, and we, ought to be able to have a discussion with the school board about what we''re paying for, and how much the bill is. And the school board should be open to that discussion.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment mayodemango commented at 8/10/2011 1:39:00 PM:

Let me see if I get this straight.....
The Columbus City Council appoints the "school board".....
The "school board" refuses to meet with the city council" as per their attorney.
I'm getting a funny feeling about this has a ring of the old "Harper Valley PTA" song about it. The time has come for the citizens to take back control. STOP sitting back quietly while the city of Columbus spirals further and further down the tubes!!!
As with many other groups who are appointed, elected, selected, etc., they have an exaggerated opinion of their position, as well as, their worth to the community.


Article Comment columbusrealitycheck commented at 8/10/2011 4:13:00 PM:

Well, well, well!

When I read the title of this editorial, I naturally assumed that it was referring to the ARROGANT, self-serving group of people know as the Columbus CVB Board of Directors. But, to my dismay, it was referring, instead, to the School Board.

Let me tell you, as someone who keeps up with the activities of both of these boards, the School Board is not even in the same league as the CCVB Board.

Although you may disagree with the recommendations of the School Board's attorney, at least they (the School Board) had the wisdom and foresight to engage the services of dedicated legal counsel (not someone who is on the School Board). The CCVB Board, in their hubris, have decided that they can simply rely on the advice of CCVB Board member Dewitt Hicks, who is also a local attorney. While I can't speak to the legal ramifications of the CCVB Board's method, one could certainly argue that having someone who votes on Board matters also advising them on the legal considerations of those decisions, looks bad.

But, then again, the CCVB Board has demonstrated, by word and deed, that they believe that they are untouchable and unaccountable. This may be an attitude that they come to regret.


Article Comment kj commented at 8/10/2011 8:54:00 PM:

"This may be an attitude that they come to regret."

While that would be nice, it's very likely wishful thinking. We're in a state ranked as the most religious while simultaneously having the highest percentage of teenage pregnancies and in a country where the most popular TV show is American Idol. I seriously doubt that there's going to be enough targeted outrage at the CCVB to see any change. I doubt there's going to be enough targeted outrage at the City Council for anyone to lose their job because of their vote to fire St. John.


Article Comment zipporah commented at 8/11/2011 5:11:00 PM:

There has to be someone the CMSD answers to. There is a money trail if anyone wants to follow, and that money trail should show exactly how money has been wasted and misspent. I know that other school districts have been taken over by the state for much less than is going on here. It is not strange to me that some of the same names keep popping up in the CVB and the CMSD. The City Council should be asking for audits and financial records. All the magnet schools, the new middle school, all the extra administrators, etc. and our test scores are WORSE than last year. Our school district is so top heavy and the students are being cheated,cheated, cheated.


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