Sharing can save money Combining some school, government operations should produce efficiencies.

March 31, 1998

EFFORTS OF Carroll County government and the school board to cut education costs to help cover a projected $16 million budget deficit in five years are overdue. It's time for the two bodies to explore ways to share certain costs, services and facilities.

A list devised by a joint committee of the school board and Carroll County government appears promising. It includes a common warehouse, combining purchases and insurance policies, vehicle maintenance consolidation and shared maintenance and groundskeeping functions.

While the Carroll County Board of Education continues to maintain its (elected) independence, the school budget is largely dependent on decisions of the county commissioners.

State law sets "maintenance of effort" minimums for education funding, but the commissioners must weigh the school board's request with those of other county agencies before deciding how to cut the budget pie.

That's why a firm effort is needed to follow through on the cost-sharing proposals, sooner rather than later. The money comes from county taxpayers, to whom the commissioners are ultimately responsible.

This isn't an easy task. For example, study and expert advice will be necessary before changing employees' insurance and health benefits. Shared facilities require clear definition of each user's obligations. But it can be done, with goodwill on both sides.

The commissioners approved $100 million in school construction over the five-year period. They are addressing the county's growing school needs in ways such as adding $1.6 million to the 1998-1999 recommended education budget.

Specific savings from the combined projects have not been defined. There's no assurance that if all ideas are implemented, they would cover the projected school budget shortfall.

But rational sharing is a step that should produce benefits for taxpayers, without compromising education or services.

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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