Tuesday, May 11, 2010

11 MAY 10: Down by the Old Millage Stream

Columbus State University held what it called its 100th commencement ceremony Monday night. Considering C.S.U. turned 50 only a couple of years ago, I think the math majors need some remedial instruction - because some of us don't really think December ceremonies should count.

Making sure students are ready for college is the job of the Muscogee County School Board. But a work session Monday night dealt with other things -- such as property taxes and tuition "tip lines." Sometimes I think these meetings should be mandatory for members of the Future Business Leaders of America.

WRBL reported there was a little good news about the Muscogee County school budget dilemma. Superintendent Susan Andrews told the board the budget gap may wind up in the 15 million dollar range, instead of 18 million. I didn't know all the furniture in the new Public Education Center had money hidden under the cushions.

The school board work session was in part a public hearing on the property tax millage. A public notice apparently was required by law to be advertised as "property tax increase." I can only assume that law went into effect after Republicans took control of the Georgia Legislature.

Muscogee County Schools spokesperson Valerie Fuller says an increase in property tax rates is NOT guaranteed yet. But a district budget report indicates a millage increase could provide more than six million extra dollars -- not to mention two or three new board members, if the voters are angry about it come November.

A property tax millage increase won't solve the budget problem completely. So the Muscogee County School Board discussed other ideas, such as eliminating the "evening high school" program. If anything, you'd think the district would expand that program - so students would be too busy to watch complaints about public schools on Fox News Channel.

The principal of the evening high school went to the school board Monday night with $100,000 in budget-cutting ideas. He noted several Muscogee County high schools already offer "credit recovery" programs -- which puts them in competition with telemarketers and their loan consolidation plans.

Another issue at Monday night's school board work session was bringing back tuition for the children of Muscogee County school employees who live outside the district. That tuition was eliminated seven years ago - but there's no estimate on how well Columbus High School's baseball team would be playing if it returned.

School board member Cathy Williams said if nonresident tuition was brought back for Muscogee County school employees, a tip line ought to be established for prosecuting offenders. There's already Crimestoppers across the area and "Gun Stoppers" for students - so would this be called Buck-Stoppers?

But one parent told WXTX some Muscogee County teachers can't afford to pay nonresident tuition for their children. I suppose they're also the teachers who "can't afford" to commute day after day from Harris County or Smiths Station.

For all the talk about tough budget decisions, no votes were taken at Monday night's school board meeting. In fact, some board members don't want to take a vote until mid-June. They need time to study for the critical final exam, every bit as much as students do.

Speaking of exams: the state of Georgia s trying to cut costs there. State lawmakers ended the CRCT for first and second-graders. One educator told Albany's WALB-TV it was too difficult to keep them seated for long periods of time for three consecutive days. Aw, c'mon - there's no better time to begin teaching youngsters how to wear seat belts.

A way for students to spend their summer vacations tops our check of other Monday news....

+ WTVM reported the new improved Double Churches Park swimming pool will open later than planned. A couple of big rainstorms have delayed construction - but hopefully the workers were smart enough to set out dozens of buckets on those days, preparing for when the pool is ready.

+ Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions told National Public Radio he's concerned about the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sessions noted Kagan lacks experience as a judge. So? I know several ordinary citizens who claim to be wiser than the current justices - and that doesn't count the radio talk show hosts.

+ Columbus High School won the Georgia AAA men's golf title by 11 shots. Then again, Columbus had home-course advantage. Any ball driven into the woods somehow can be found with a perfect lie, when you plant look-alikes the night before.

+ Orlando eliminated the Atlanta Hawks from the N.B.A. playoffs 98-84. Talk about humiliating - swept away with a Magic broom.

+ Instant Message to Rep. Sanford Bishop: What did you tell the Columbus State graduates Monday night? Did you encourage them to take advantage of health care reform, and cling to their parents' insurance plans until they turn 26?

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