A reasonable idea at a tough time

Published 8:35 pm Friday, June 10, 2011

The Isle of Wight County School Board and Board of Supervisors have made a big investment in public education generally and in Windsor students specifically with their recent decision to build a new Windsor Middle School.

A one-time opportunity at some interest-free financing from the state encouraged county officials to move out on the project, even as they raised property taxes 25 percent for the upcoming fiscal year to cover the loss of tax revenue from the shuttered Franklin paper mill.

That’s a bold, if controversial, move by a county that obviously puts a premium on quality public schools. Supervisors and school board members are, not surprisingly, catching heat from many citizens for adding significantly to taxpayers’ debt load in a time of economic uncertainty.

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Fiscal conservatives in Isle of Wight have proposed a way to give at least some temporary relief to property owners by closing the existing Windsor Middle School and relocating middle-school students to Windsor High and two elementary schools during the two years that it will take for the new middle school to be built.

This strikes us as a reasonable plan that would demonstrate some commitment to fiscal austerity in the short term while the county adds to property owners’ tax bills in the long run with debt service on the new school.

Public-school advocates should be thrilled with the decision to build a new Windsor Middle School. They should be gracious winners and not pitch a fit over a two-year plan to save taxpayers some money while the county recovers from a huge blow to its coffers.