Newton School Superintendent Gary Mathews faces some tough decisions this year as he has to lead the school system through an extremely painful round of budget cuts, paring at least $9 million from an already lean budget. He’s set to release a list of potential cuts on Monday, but it’s not as if he’s been atop Mount Sinai and returned with a decree etched in stone.
What comes out Monday are proposals, subject to modification through a very public vetting process that includes principals, school councils and the general public. A public forum is set for Thursday.
That’s exactly what we expect from Mathews, who in his short tenure has set a tone as being upfront and open in conducting the public’s business. We applaud his frankness and leadership style.
Mathews had done the math, and the numbers are adding up, but not in his favor, or ours.
Newton County could meet its budget by slashing $4.6 million from its budget and drawing its reserve fund down to zero. That would be asking for trouble, though.
As we reported in Friday’s edition of the newspaper, it costs $568,138 a day, or $11.4 million a month to keep the school system running. With nothing in reserve, even a minor unexpected expense could set off a financial landmine.
That’s why $4.4 million in additional cuts need to be made now, so the schools will have something set aside for an emergency.
Mathews has educated us well in terms of explaining what’s at stake and what’s coming. The work is about to get a lot harder, but we can take comfort in Mathews having laid out a good lesson plan to follow.
In the know
In a perfect world, our representative democracy would work as advertised, with citizens elected by other citizens to run the various functions of government.
But life is too complicated for that. Even the best of leaders needs to have professionals to call on for advice and to implement decisions.
That applies to even smaller cities and towns nowadays. A bevy of federal regulations and mandates makes it hard for mayors and council members who have day jobs to take the lead in the daily operation of a government.
That’s why it makes sense for the city of Oxford to consider hiring a city manager. Oxford wants to change its charter so the city can hire a full-time professional city manager, beginning in July.
Mayor Jerry Roseberry is an advocate for the change, noting the complexities involved in running the city.
We see his point. How many private businesses would try to operate a $4.4 million operation like the city of Oxford without a professional manager?
Sometimes you need a pro.