Producing a win-win for teachers and our quality of life

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I attended the Charles County commissioners hearing May 12 on Charles County's budget. It was moving to see so many teachers speak passionately and eloquently in favor of funding the school budget.

They convincingly made their case for the commissioners to adjust priorities and fund the additional needed $3.5 million for the school system.

As a member of the environmental community who has also been asking the commissioners to re-evaluate their priorities, I found the hearing to be heartbreaking because when the development industry wants something, snap, the money is always available.

A case in point is the proposed cross-county connector, which would cost well more than $50 million (that's more than $1,000 per household).

Even though the budget has already passed, it should be amended to redirect money from this unneeded highway to the school system.

Or, consider the costs for the tech park proposed for sensitive woods and streams next to J.C. Parks Elementary School and Matthew Henson Middle School in Indian Head.

A large percentage of the $17 million to bring water and sewer to this project is expected to be borne by taxpayers, even though alternative sites with water and sewer already exist in Waldorf and Indian Head. There is still time for the citizens to say "no" to a proposed contract that would bind Charles County taxpayers to fund yet another developer's dream.

By prioritizing destructive projects like these, it is no wonder the commissioners find themselves short. In fact, they are digging a hole for future budget shortfalls.

A better choice would focus funds squarely on preserving core services and values for residents.

These include funding our teachers and students, the "safety net" for the community's most vulnerable residents and protecting our rural character.

By revitalizing our urban core to create walkable, transit-oriented communities rather than subsidizing development in rural areas, we'd have cleaner air and water and avoid even more costs for restoration.

By reprioritizing the commissioners' growth policies, the budget could produce a win-win solution for our teachers and students, our quality of life, our pocketbooks and future generations.

Bonnie Bick, Oxon Hill