Opinion

School finance for the layman/Island 2 Island

School finance for the layman

If you were making a list of things Bainbridge Island really needs, “another committee” probably would not rank high on the chart.

So trying to find an exciting angle for “Schools to create Financial Advisory Committee” is something of a chore. We would much rather be announcing the arrival of a brew pub (oops – tried that, and it failed), a bowling alley (ditto) or an ice cream store (sigh). But for the handful of wonkish types out there who pay attention to the finer points of public education financing, this news out of the tour d’ivoire of Madison Avenue will bring a minor twinge of nirvana.

Briefly, community members are being sought for a new Financial Advisory Committee that will also include district officials and school board members. The group will meet monthly to help prepare the school district’s general fund budget – significant decisions for spending on classrooms, facilities, transportation and technology – devise long-range funding strategies and provide community perspective and input. They’ll also become liaisons of sorts, able to take information on school-funding realities back into the general community.

When it comes down to it, participants may be surprised to learn how few discretionary dollars, as a percentage of the budget, our school officials really have to work with each year. About 93 percent of the district’s $30 million annual budget is encumbered even before the budgeting process begins, what with salaries, benefits and other recurring operations costs.

That said, we think this committee will fill a useful niche. The world of school finance is more arcane and labyrinthine than perhaps any other public sphere, and the more people who understand it – and can thus explain it to their neighbors when levy requests roll around – the better. Call the school district if you’re interested.

So there you have it: Bainbridge Island is about to have a new committee. Hopefully, the next big news around here will be an ice cream store.

Island 2 Island

Last Saturday, we reported on a Bainbridge effort to drum up new or gently used small household appliances, tools and other supplies for Vermilion Parish, La., a coastal community devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Donations are being taken this weekend at the former Exotic Aquatics building on Ericksen Avenue, and from there to be driven to Louisiana in a donated truck.

We were subsequently forwarded this note from Leonard Rolfes, Sr., father-in-law of our former councilwoman and a native of the bayou country. Wrote he: “Many thanks to you and all of the people of Bainbridge for your concern. The people living in the coastal parishes (as Vermilion) were really hard hit. There is an east-west road which bisects Abbeville; everything south of that road was destroyed. That is where Cow Island and the others are located. That area was home for a sizable cattle industry; they lost 20,000 head of cattle. Additionally, of course fishing was devastated. So, thanks again for your concern and efforts.”

While they’ve slipped out of the headlines, our Southern kin clearly face a tough recovery from the havoc wrought by nature. When the loss of cows represents a major economic hardship in their community, it only underscores the life of privilege we lead in ours – and it’s good to see islanders responding with compassion.

The Island To Island effort has established a website at www.ovationmtb.com/listings15001.asp. Find a list of needed items there and more information on this worthy effort.

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