Long story in the Democrat-Gazette today about preliminary ideas to cut $10 million in spending in the Little Rock School District on account of a drop in enrollment that apparently is far more severe than originally thought.
Of course Board member Baker Kurrus is right that the Board must consider the causes of declining enrollment.
But, in the meanwhile, cuts will be necessary.
The obvious problem (and Board member Melanie Fox touched on it): The proposal calls for elimination of some 60 to 70 jobs IN THE SCHOOLS the first year. Most of these are teachers and counselors (important job, school fans), plus a dozen assistant principals. The proposal doesn't list a single central office administrative job cut. Is it really possible that every single administrator is unexpendable, but 50 teachers are not?
I remain less convinced than most -- particularly by those who've never been in the LR schools -- that school-by-school results or the likely results of new schools elsewhere have or will justify the student exodus in every single case. But parent comfort is paramount. You know the cliche: perception is reality. It can and will create a death spiral without a strong response. A strong response is not protecting highly paid jobs that don't directly serve kids while axing workers who do.
RELATED TOPIC: A reader with years of experience in local real estate, says one partial solution to LRSD money woes is tax fairness when it comes to property tax. This would mean tax increases, however, for people he believes are currently underassessed. Read on for his take.
FROM A READER:
The money for LRSD would be there if assessor would only bring Hillcrest, Heights and north of Cantrell Road corridor up to appraised value. For example the homes on Hill Road are paying 30 to 40% of appraised value while Chenal and WLR are at 90 to 100% of value. It will be years before their values are at market value, given the annual cap on tax increases from rising value.
If you raise everyone in Heights, Hillcrest, Cantrell corridor $100,000 which would still keep many below their market value, and you had 10,000 homes, that would raise approx $8 million.
Benton County is at full value and so is White County. Wy should a Walton and Glass pay full value for their homes while a Hussman and Dillard (and other influentials) pay a fraction of their value.
Our problem is not finances it is the assessor, Unviersity Tower is assessed at a 1/4th the value of Plaza Office Bldg (next to Catholic High) -- basically the same building rents, etc, only difference University Tower is managed by a local property owner and Plaza office is an out of state owner.
I also think the Clinton library should not be on the tax roll, but the private residence should be.
Hopefully this will be addressed in the next legislature, but I doubt it. LRSD will have to keep begging for money, while with a little local political will they would have what they need.
MY COMMENT: Can you imagine the howls. Note that some of the difference in values is what the system naturally encourages in favor of people who live for long periods in the same house while new houses come on the tax rolls at market value. The circuit breaker in state law limits annual tax increases from rising value. Stay a long while in the same house and your value goes up, but taxes don't rise in commensurate fashion. Another problem I see in this scenario is that the market has taken a beating recently.