Voices From The Readers
Mandated Cuts Will Devastate Schools
During the economic crisis we are facing, I believe we need to really prioritize our spending. Thanks to the commitment of our County Commissioners of the past and present, our schools have been a priority and we have enjoyed an excellent return on our investment.
Worcester County is recognized as one of the leaders of education in the state of Maryland. The draw of our excellent school system has also had a positive impact on property values. We have consistently achieved top scores in state mandated testing, achieved some of the highest percentages in graduation rates, received over $11 million in merit based scholarships, and are first in the state for reading and math for grades 3 and 8. This has all been accomplished while keeping to a budget that ranks among the lowest compared to the rest of the state.
Now that the County Commissioners have mandated a 3-percent cut to the existing budget, our schools are in jeopardy of the losing the ground we have gained. The Board has proposed $2.6 million in cuts that will be severely felt by teachers and students. Because of increases to some of the fixed costs like unemployment, workers compensation, and utilities, in order to comply with the commissioners' mandate, the Board of Education will have to make another $1.6 million in cuts. This will devastate our schools.
I recognize that our economy is in a crisis and we all have to make sacrifices for it, but I also believe there is room for some creativity in how we do it. Our commissioners are to be commended for having kept up with the self- mandated 10-percent reserve fund (also known as a Rainy Day Fund) as well as being well ahead of schedule in fully funding the OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefit fund) at $17 million per year. There is over $51 million funded to date and we have 40 years to fund it completely. I would love to pay off the mortgage on my home in five years, however in this economy, I believe it is prudent to continue to pay it off for the next 20 years so I will have what I need to take care of my family today.
I am not saying we should wipe out these funds, but using a small amount or not putting a full $17 million in OPEB this year would seem to be a much better option than creating operational scars in our schools that will last for years. These cuts to the budget mean that we will have no money for technology, textbooks and instructional materials in class, and materials needed to accommodate students with special needs or learning disabilities.
After working so hard to create the amazing student body and quality dedicated teachers we enjoy, are we really ready to just let it all go downhill. We need to keep our children as a high priority especially in these times. They are our future and future of Worcester County.
Michelle and Jack Schachter
Thoughts On Proposed
Wind Farm Off Coast
We have read, with much interest, Karen M. Guglielmo's letter relative to the proposed wind farm to the east of Ocean City, in the Atlantic.
As one that was in the offshore oil construction industry for some 30 years, we are amazed at the negative views on progress. This letter takes us back to June 1986, Santa Barbara, California and the demand then to remove all oil field equipment for their harbor and shoreline. You should note that gasoline in those days cost $3.259/gal in California.
If one would drive from Arizona to California via I-10 they would get an eye full as they crossed the state line. They would see a wind farm on both sides of the highway as far as the eye could see.
With that being said, the present proposed project would be in federal waters, beyond the authority of the Town of Ocean City and the State of Maryland. The wind farm would not be visible from the Inlet beach. The financial impact on Ocean City would amount to property taxes on the underwater cable bringing in the generated power. As for the impact on the tourist industry, imagine taking a fishing boat out for a day to the rigs, as is done from Grande Isle, La., and come home with string of fish as one has never cast their eyes on before.
If these folks are serious, we would suggest that Ocean City change its name to Santa Barbara East. We would, also, suggest that Delmarva Power be required to build a power generating plant in Ocean City down by the 50 Bridge.
Needs Help To Continue
I must admit that the idea behind this letter is not original; it was triggered by a letter in the Feb. 17, 2009, Daily Times from Dan Livingston of Salisbury.
I serve as a member of the Worcester County Veterans Memorial Foundation Board of Directors, which, along with creating and building the beautiful Memorial at the South Pond of Ocean Pines, also has developed an educational program for Worcester County fifth grade students.
Our program offers to the students an opportunity to visit the Memorial and participate in presentations which engage the students in understanding the purpose of the Memorial, the inscribed bricks and pavers which make up the Memorial, the service flags, and other pertinent topics. A segment on the history of the US flag, and demonstrations of flag etiquette and flag folding are included as part of the field trip to the site.
Almost 1,000 students have participated in the program to date, and the program continues to expand. In 2009, we may have as many as eight county public and private schools participating in the program. There are over 25 Worcester County residents participating in the program as docents.
The foundation and its Educational Committee have published a Student Activities Booklet that reinforces the information the students receive when visiting the Memorial. Each student receives a copy of this booklet, which was funded through a grant from the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore.
The foundation has pledged itself, even in these tight economic times, to continue its support of this program for our county students. We must provide for the expense of transporting the students to the site, and, in another year, we will have to publish a second printing of our booklet.
As Mr. Livingston put it in his letter, '•€¦if you're in a position to help us, this program can pay future dividends.' Help us to instill in our children respect for our flag and gratitude to the men and women who serve or have served in our Armed Forces. For further information, call 410.641.7243. Donations may be sent to the Foundation at P. O. Box 1576, Ocean Pines, Md. 21811.
Pillas Deserves Credit
For Educating Public
All Ocean City taxpayers owe a debt of gratitude to Council member Margaret Pillas for her persistence in pushing for publication of the total compensation paid to various Ocean City employees.
While I do not begrudge any employee making as much money as their employer will pay, the information developed for Pillas showed that many employees' compensation exceed $100,000 a year, excluding pension benefits. This $100,000 figure is to be contrasted with the recently released United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed the average take home pay of a Worcester County worker was $494 per week, which is dead last in the State of Maryland.
However, Pillas' persistence for the taxpayers is to be contrasted with Council member Mary Knight's effort to discredit Pillas' efforts by requiring to come up with the hours and cost to produce the compensation information requested by Pillas. All Ocean City taxpayers should remember this bush league action of Knight when she runs for re-election. Thank you Pillas for your efforts in the face of strong opposition.
Veronica M. Potter
Donations Helped Make
Needy Drive A Success
The Noel Community thanks all who donated gloves, hats, blankets, and socks to our seventh annual gLOVEs drive during the Valentine Day season.
Local food pantries, lower income day care facilities, and social service groups have already distributed the items collected at the drive. Together, we were able to warm the hearts and hands of our friends in need.
We are especially grateful to St. Andrew's and St. John Neumann's Catholic churches and to the Worcester County Libraries in Ocean City, Ocean Pines, and Berlin for hosting the collections. We appreciate everyone's generosity again this year.
The Noel Community