Don't play politics with children's safety

May 17, 2013

The Haywood County Board of Education completely dismantled its proposal to improve school safety at the risk of having to raise taxes to pay for it.

School administration extensively researched how to improve safety after the Sandy Hook shootings and made recommendations to the board. Those recommendations included hiring four new resource officers and four new guidance counselors and to install security locks on doors. The cost would be about $900,000.

With the request in hand, commissioners told the school board that property taxes would need to be raised in order to pay for any school budget increase. Not wanting to be the scapegoat, the board of education withdrew its request. We understand raising taxes, especially in the current economy, is a serious issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

But if the school system thinks these school safety improvements are worth the cost, then the board of education should fight for them. It’s about setting priorities — improving school safety is either necessary or it isn’t. If the school system can’t find the money in its current budget, they should pass the request onto the county commissioners for the final decision.

If the commissioners can’t or won’t find room for the expense in the county budget, the choice is simple — raise taxes to pay for it or deny the request. Elected officials often rely on input from constituents before making a decision like raising taxes, but residents have had little to say on the issue. While everyone seems concerned about school safety, it is unfortunate people didn’t take this opportunity to have their voices heard.

However, members of these boards are elected to make these types of difficult decisions in the best interest of the county with or without much feedback. If the boards don’t think student safety improvements are worth the cost — scratch the idea. But if it’s something that is needed, we need to fight for what’s right.

Don’t just give it up because it may raise taxes. Playing with children’s safety is not a game.

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