Just a few weeks ago, the School Board wanted to move forward on purchasing a building (Gatehouse II) that would have cost over $100 million in order to bring administrative personnel into a central building. There was a lot of public opposition to the move since people believed that money would be better spent on classrooms and the savings proposed from the move wouldn’t be seen for quite some time and would be minimal. Considering that the financial crisis that we’re facing is resulting in cuts having to be made, it simply wasn’t going to be wise to spend that amount of money on an unnecessary building. Nonetheless, the school board wanted to move forward and it took action by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to finally stop consideration of the project.
Fast forward to last Thursday and the School Board was considering a proposal that had similar reasoning behind it, even though the expenditure would have been much less. In the 3rd quarter budget review there was a recommendation to purchase 500 GPS systems for school buses. The argument in favor of buying the GPS systems was that it would allow staff members to study the routes busses took each day, which could potentially lead to some savings if there were changes that could be put in place.
Unlike during the debate surrounding Gatehouse II, the majority of the school board members spoke up to say that while this might be nice to have, the expenditure wasn’t absolutely necessary and it wasn’t clear how much savings (if any) would actually result from the purchase. With that reasoning backing up their vote, the school board made the commonsense move to unanimously vote in favor of not making the purchase at this time.
During a time when we are facing a financial crisis and the School Board will have to vote on making some major budget adjustments, I am very pleased to see that they took a step towards avoiding some highly questionable purchases. The money that would have been spent on the GPS systems, after all, would be much better utilized if it was directed at funding programs in our classrooms that are at risk of being cut due to the financial crisis. As the Board moves forward with consideration of the budget, I sincerely hope they continue this process of thinking and make wise decisions on some important votes in the near future.