Can’t have your cake and eat it, too

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, March 30, 2016

At a public hearing on Monday night concerning the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors shared with those in attendance the Southampton County Public School Board’s budgetary requests. It was, as I outlined an in article earlier this month [Southampton reveals budget requests, March 11], $1.9 million above the amount allocated by the supervisors last year.

There are several positives that could come of the school board’s request if it were ultimately granted, including a pay raise for teachers, the hiring of more staff and various facility upgrades that would provide students with a safe environment conducive to learning.

But the sad reality is that the district will not get the money that it desires. The continuous decrease in state funding will leave the county in the seemingly impossible position of finding a way to supplement said lack of revenue without raising taxes. It’s an issue that will only continue to get worse each year — unless something changes.

That’s where you come in, Southampton County. You have an opportunity to keep your taxes at a minimum this spring by supporting the development of a light industrial center on Camp Parkway.

I appreciate that many residents pride themselves on Southampton County’s agricultural heritage, but we’re at a point in time where farming practices alone cannot make up the difference.

There will be another public hearing in April with regard to the development, at which time you’ll have the opportunity to vocalize your support of the project or speak against it.

If you choose the former, which provides an opportunity to produce revenue, then I commend you for doing what is in the best interest of the county and the children who attend Southampton County Public Schools. Taxes may still increase, but not to the extent that if you choose the latter option. In that case, I hope that you are okay with the county significantly raising your taxes when it adopts next year’s budget.

County residents are in the unenviable predicament when it comes to the future of the school district and the county as a whole. You can either:

1. Keep with the status quo and hope that your children and grandchildren can get a quality education without the district having any money;

2. Support a development that you may not necessarily want, but will bring money to the county; or

3. Be okay with a tax increase.

Nevertheless, the uphill climb you’re tasked with is not one in which you’ll come out without your pride or wallet being bloodied.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It’s easy to place blame on the state for the lack of funds, claim that the supervisors are not doing enough to keep the county afloat or accuse the school board of not maximizing available funds.

Maybe it’s time to look in the mirror and step up to the plate, Southampton County. Kicking the can down the road — instead of being proactive and open to change — is what got you in this position in the first place.

ANDREW LIND is the sports editor and staff writer at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at 562-3187, or at @AndrewMLind.