Letter to Editor:

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Letter to the Editor:

We would like to take this opportunity to express our opinion about the upcoming school consolidation question that will be on the Nov. 4, 2008, election ballot. Aledo and Westmer have both approved their 2008-2009 budgets for this school year. Both districts are utilizing cash reserves/carryover funds from last year in order to keep from having overall deficit budgets.

Operating funds come from a variety of sources, but a significant portion comes from State Aid. State Aid is based, at least in part, on student enrollment, which has been declining over the last several years in both Aledo and Westmer Districts. This means significantly less money is coming into the districts from the State, while our expenses continue to increase. Unless something changes, both districts will be operating with deficit budgets next year.

With lack of sufficient funds to meet operating costs, the districts will be forced to look at only three options. They must cut programs, borrow funds, or ask for a tax increase. In these economic times, it would be very difficult to get voters to approve a tax increase for our schools. Borrowing funds could be difficult, and this only delays and increases the cost to the taxpayers. The only remaining option will be for both districts to cut programs. 

A big concern, if the districts were to decide to cut programs, would be to decide which programs should be cut? State-mandated programs must remain in place. Therefore, the extra-curricular programs would most likely be the first to go, followed by cuts in staff. Extra-curricular programs do not comprise a large part of the school district budget, but they are very visible in the community. The largest percentage of school district expenditures are salaries. In order to make significant expense reductions, staff cuts would be required. If staff cuts occur, this would mean larger class sizes (K-12) and loss of curriculum opportunities for our students.

Is this what we want for our schools? We all want to provide what is best for our kids. They are our future, and our schools are a vital part of our community. A community without strong educational programs and well-kept school facilities is not going to attract families and economic growth. Our schools need to be in good shape both financially and physically, with effective programs and staff. 

In order for this to happen, we must put aside prejudices, and unite in support of the Aledo-Westmer consolidation. By consolidating the two districts, the new district will be able to operate with more efficient use of tax dollars. This efficiency can be achieved by eliminating duplications in staff and administration, transportation, extra-curricular programs, and course offerings. When districts combine, new ideas, methods, and possibilities will set the stage for improvements that are not currently possible in either district alone.

Tom Avery and Bruce Hall

Interim District Superintendents

Westmer CUSD #203