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The Covington News - - Opinion -

Ed­u­ca­tion costs

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.

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