Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The county budget

I usually speak at my county's annual public hearing on the budget.  (I missed last year completely -- it just wasn't on my radar.)  Last night was this year's hearing.

Typically, county government people go through the proposed budget and the procedures for public comment (often takes about an hour), and then starts the parade of people who signed up for their three minutes to speak.

Here's what I said during my three minutes:

I’ve spoken to this Board six of the past seven years, always asking for funding for St. Mary’s County Public Schools.  This year my topic is still funding for SMCPS, but I have to start out with a big “Thank you” for the funding already slated.  This funding means that teachers can continue to do the status quo “more” with less.  They won’t need to do more “more” with even more “less.”

My focus with SMCPS and St. Mary’s County as a community is on special education and appropriate service providers for people with special needs.  I usually drive to Baltimore and D.C. to get the specialists my children need (as do many other families in the county).  However, not everyone can afford to do so in terms of time or money. I am encouraged to hear of the new facilities in the works on Great Mills Rd. that will increase the number of local providers.  I’d like to emphasize that meeting needs now will significantly reduce the money spent when children become adults.

I also rely on SMCPS to meet the educational needs of my children.  My family is impacted by multiple mental health and medical needs, most significantly by Autism.  It was with great interest that I read Dr. Martirano’s Letter to the Editor in the April 24th edition of
The Enterprise.  In it, Dr. Martirano presented a lengthy list of supports that SMCPS offers to students/families impacted by autism.  In my opinion, each of the points in the letter may be accurate, but when you string them together, you hide the gaps. What's in between the points are the problems with services.  I will follow up on those gaps in services for students/families impacted by autism with Dr. Martirano.  That’s my job as a parent, as a community member, and as the coordinator of the Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland.

Why I bring it up here is because without further funding of the school budget, the services listed in the letter cannot be systematically provided, as needed.  Therefore, when these children exit the school system at 18, 19, 20, 21, the cost of care and services becomes a huge drain on
county resources.  This Board of Commissions seems to be all about paying now to avoid future expenditures at higher rates.  It only makes sense, ethically and financially, to do the same for our children.

Again, I thank you for what you’ve done.  I ask you to consider the true costs of paying less now to educate our children only to pay more when they grow up.  Thank you.


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