Editorial: Deficit decisions

Editorial board members:

• Al Cashion

— Community representative

• Alisa Corey

— Community representative

• Bryce Jacobson

— Newspaper representative

• Jerry Martin

— Newspaper representative

• Joshua Roberts

— Newspaper representative

Our View

Given the tough economic times faced by school district around the country, Moffat County School District officials deserve a pat on the back for crafting a budget in which using a small portion of a large cash reserve will ensure local students don’t see any superfluous cuts this year. However it is reasonable for the community to expect an increase in student performance as a result of the smart financial planning.

When the Moffat County School District ended fiscal year 2011-2012, it had more than $7 million in leftover funds available for the proverbial rainy day. And while it may not be a downpour, there definitely is a steady drizzle in Northwest Colorado’s economic forecast, at least for fiscal year 2012-13.

So when MCSD last week approved a 2012-13 budget that called for $200,000 in deficit spending, it wasn’t a big surprise, especially when taking into account the current state of the economy and dwindling availability of state funds.

Even though the term “deficit spending” — which essentially is when an entity spends more than the revenue it is forecasted to bring in — is enough to make any financial planner’s stomach turn, the editorial board applauds the district’s decision to dip into the reserve money. What’s the point of sitting on millions of taxpayer dollars when there is a tangible need for those funds?

School board members and outgoing district finance director Mark Rydberg also deserve kudos for smart planning when crafting a budget in which only a fraction of the reserve funds will be needed.

While the editorial board was split on the concept of governing bodies keeping large cash reserves of taxpayer money, all agreed that when it comes to funding education it is important to provide as many services as possible while ensuring that those services will be available in the future. With this budget, $200,000 of deficit spending will make sure those services are provided while leaving plenty leftover to tackle whatever shortfalls that may exist in the future.

However the editorial board also contends the school board’s job isn’t over yet when it comes to utilizing a large amount of taxpayer money. They did an excellent job planning, now they have to do the same when it comes to actually spending that money and implementing the services the deficit spending will help keep intact.

In short, the residents of Moffat County deserve to see some positive changes result from using $200,000 of taxpayer money to bridge a budget deficit.

Does this mean standardized test scores need to improve a certain amount across the board in order to justify the expenditure?

Absolutely not. Putting dollars and cents in the same bag as student test scores is a dangerous undertaking, one that probably has led directly to the sad state of public education that exists across the country.

But it would be even more foolish to use reserve money to simply maintain the status quo when it comes to education in Moffat County. Given that taxpayer money is being used to make sure Moffat County Schools operate at their full capacity, it is not unfair for the taxpayers of Moffat County to expect an improvement in student performance.

We are lucky. Smart spending and conservative planning in the past have the schools in our community in a better financial position than in other school districts around the state, districts that MCHS often is compared to when test results are released each year.

It’s time that advantage moved from the ledger to the report card.

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