Editorial: On behalf of taxpayers and schools

  • Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2013 5:37 p.m.

Let’s get one thing straight first off. All members of local elected bodies represent taxpayers — not just a few self-appointed crusaders on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

The chairman of that board was deliberately absent last week as the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, Salisbury City Council and two commissioners met to discuss a central office for the school system. But commission Vice Chair Craig Pierce could have been channeling Chairman Jim Sides when he said he was there not to represent the schools but rather to represent taxpayers, as though the two were mutually exclusive. Most of the officials at the meeting were looking out for the interests of the taxpayers and the schools.

If our schools were unsuccessful, our community would be unable to support and attract good jobs, and taxpayers would suffer the consequences. And if taxpayers failed — if they became overwhelmed by property taxes, sales taxes and the like — the schools would feel the pain of lost resources. Not to mention the fact that administrators, faculty and staff pay taxes, too, as do all elected officials.

Creating a true central office is not Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil. It’s a matter of addressing a practical need at a good time. The school system lacks a true central office. Interest rates are at rock-bottom and competition for building contracts is high. But the real urgency comes from the condition of the school system’s Long Street offices, where employees work in spaces that are inadequate and potentially dangerous.

Susan Cox, member of the school board who also won voters’ support in November, spoke the simple truth when she said it’s time to get the project done. “Again, we have many important issues that we need to deal with,” she said. “We need to move on.”

Rowan should count itself lucky if the biggest problem local government faces is the location of the schools’ headquarters. But it’s not. The office building is not even the schools’ greatest concern; student achievement is the system’s top priority. But establishing the central office is a responsibility that past leaders have put off too long. Today’s leaders have an opportunity to fulfill that responsibility at a time when interest rates are low and the city is willing to partner on the site, parking and financing. Property taxes would be unaffected — music to taxpayers’ ears and to the schools.

The county, the schools and the city are in a tug of war, but all on the same side. They are all pulling to do what they believe is best for taxpayers and the economic future of Rowan County. Their opponents are obstinance, cynicism and complacency. Please do not let those forces prevail again.

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