There’s more financial pain ahead for the Barrow County School System. As with every other school system in the state, Barrow is being slammed by the economic downturn, which has cut state and local revenues.
Unlike many other systems, however, Barrow still does have a positive cash reserve from which to do some short-term borrowing. But as officials recognize, that’s not a longer-term solution.
The real underlying problem with school funding in Georgia isn’t the lack of revenues, however. Although income is down, overall Georgians continue to throw a majority of state and local tax dollars into public education.
The real problem is that across the nation, states and local school systems have built up a huge cost structure surrounding education, especially in salaries. Administrative salaries have soared in many systems to levels that are morally and financially indefensible.
Barrow isn’t the worst abuser of that — the system had 12 employees who earned over $100,000 in FY2009, which is less than some smaller nearby systems.
Still, the overall pay and benefits of public education employees is far above the private sector. Some 256 Barrow school employees made over $60,000 last year. Multiply that by all school systems in the state and you have the reason the state now finds itself short $1.5-$2.0 billion dollars.
Getting state and local employee payroll costs under control is the long-term solution to this fiscal crisis. Barrow is in better shape than many systems in this, but without some aggressive cost cutting now, it, too, will eventually run out of funds.
Some Barrow County “old-timers” might remember former Winder News editor Johnny Solesbee from the 1970s.
Solesbee, who has spent the last 21 years as a publisher in Cornelia, retired last week after a long and distinguished career in newspaper journalism.
In Barrow County, Solesbee was an aggressive editor. Legend has it that one time when the county commissioners where all in the same car driving around the county in order to avoid having an open public meeting, Solesbee followed them until they had a restroom stop, at which he knocked on the driver’s window and asked, “How’s the meeting going, boys?”
As fellow publishers in Georgia, we congratulate Johnny Solesbee on his well-earned retirement, but we also lament the loss to newspapering that his retirement represents.