It’s reality time for local governments

Cal Beverly's picture

Dear local government officials and public employees, I feel your pain.

The local economy has gone rotten, and tax revenues are far below what you’d ever thought you would experience.

As one who signs paychecks for a shrinking number of employees of a small business, I completely — and I mean, completely — understand.

Some of you local officials have responded much like some local businesses have — reluctantly cutting costs and hoping against hope that things would get better the next month.

But things haven’t gotten better, and may get worse.

I’d like to share some thoughts with you, and with the folks who pay the taxes, the ones who draw publicly-funded paychecks and the people who read this newspaper and patronize our clients, the advertisers.

Among governments and government workers, it’s time for some reality. Most small businesses and all my advertisers have met and responded to reality well before public officials and public employees have.

In the newspaper business, we’re in a fight for survival. Papers, both big city dailies and small-town weeklies and all in between, have been struck by two converging perfect storms: the receding economy and the titanic shift of ad dollars away from print products and into more exotic media, including the Internet.

Three years ago this paper had its best year ever. Three years later, I’ve had to lay off a third of our staff — good people, talented people, but people I could no longer afford to pay.

Our advertisers — from car dealers to real estate brokers to retailers — are hurting. And we hurt when our advertisers hurt.

We keep looking for that elusive “bottom” that the financial pundits keep talking about but which seems to be farther off in the future.

This is to explain to local officials and public employees — public works department workers, teachers, police and firefighters, city hall employees, school receptionists, etc. — that I understand something about falling revenue and firing people I can no longer afford to pay.

Folks, you are going to have to suck it up and slim down local governments, including especially the bloated school system.

Shuck it all down to the bare essentials.

The school system, particularly, with a nearly $200 million annual budget, has far too many chiefs and mid-level managers. Get rid of them.

Fewer teachers are going to have to teach larger numbers of students, and everyone — especially parents and PTO presidents and booster club members — are going to be forced to get by with a lot less than they are used to.

The money just ain’t there, folks. It ain’t going to be there for at least one year and maybe several years.

Some teachers will lose their jobs. I’m sorry. That’s just reality.

A lot of support personnel will lose their jobs. I’m sorry. That’s just financial reality.

Say hello to some of my favorite folks — my former employees and my friends — already standing in the unemployment lines.

Most local government employees will — and in reality should — lose some of their fully taxpayer-funded benefits. Yes, cops, deputies and firefighters, you, too. It’s just plain reality. Nobody gets a pass on reality. (Except for federal workers — the federal government is the only growth sector in sight, with jobs for life.)

And really, why should you? We’re all in this painful period together. And everybody on the local public payroll is going to have to share the same pain the civilian population is having to bear.

Please, public employees, don’t whine and buck against this necessity. If you complain about cutbacks that private employees have long ago suffered through, you will discover an even more painful reality called public backlash. So please don’t claim some kind of special privilege or position that entitles government workers to escape the privations being suffered by the vast majority of people who pay your salaries and benefits.

We’re in this pain together.

And if we stop the whining and stop complaining about the unfairness of it all, we’ll get through this to the other side.

However tough it gets, I expect this newspaper team to pull through. Whatever it looks like and in whatever form you choose to read it, we will continue to produce a report of local news and events.

However tough it gets, you public employees need to step up to the plate, take the same medicine everyone else is being forced to swallow and resolve to pull together to the other side.

Local leaders, stop denying reality and cut what and whom you have to cut. Don’t seek tax increases. Live within the income you will be getting.

That’s what we do in small businesses like this newspaper. We live within our means. We hope for better days, but we live — and pay our bills — in the reality of today. We hire — and fire — accordingly. We do what’s necessary to get the job done.

Local government — especially the long-bloated school system — should do the same.

Come on now. Let’s get the job done.

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Submitted by The Shadow on Fri, 01/16/2009 - 4:26pm.

The great economist Ludwig Von Mises (1881-1973) said that local governments follow the Keynesian theory of tax and spend. He says local governments are “awful” in this regard and should be “relentlessly checked”. Of course none of our local leaders understand any theory of money. Naysayers will say a theory is not proven. But just look at our economy today; it is proven that over-spending causes serious problems as Von Mises said it would.

Cal Beverly is doing a good job of “relentlessly checking” the FCBOE. Thanks Cal for taking Von Mises’ advice. Anyone interested in Von Mises’ thoughts on our economic collapse, his Institute will hold a conference March 12, 2009 in Auburn, Alabama.

Submitted by wheeljc on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 4:10pm.

mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 5:05pm.

Your link leads to a BusinessWeek magazine article which features top schools for each of the states. The Georgia school with the best overall academic performance is identified as the Davidson Magnet School in Augusta. The top public school said to be a GreatSchool’s Parent’s Choice (sic) is Wheeler High School, in East Cobb County. BusinessWeek shows another top school in Atlanta, designated as “low income,” and there is also a private school designated as a parent’s choice. That’s all.

Most Cobb County residents consider Walton High School as superior to Wheeler, but the two schools are close to each other and draw from the same general pool of students in affluent East Cobb. Our Fayette schools are not really far behind Walton and Wheeler, as they have a similar parent base.

I am persuaded the parents help make most of the difference between schools. Educated caring parents have higher expectations.

Submitted by wheeljc on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 5:47pm.

"In Oklahoma, the school with the best overall performance also happens to be the best low-income school. Despite the demographic challenges, 100% of students at the Dove Science Academy, a publicly funded charter school for grades 6 to 12 in Oklahoma City, were accepted to college last year. Its test scores were the highest in the state.

About 90% of the 481 students at Dove Science Academy qualify for free or reduced school lunch, and 60% come from families where English is not the first language, said assistant principal/dean of students Marc Julian.

The school, founded by a group of educators in the 2001-02 season in an old office building on a busy Oklahoma City street, has strict policies for both students and teachers. Students wear uniforms, and the focus is decidedly on academics. Students have two or three hours of homework each day. And the school has neither an ROTC nor a football team (It began offering varsity soccer and basketball only in the past few years).

The kids are required to stay an extra hour and—if necessary—come in on Saturdays if they fail practice tests given monthly in preparation for the statewide exams. Admission is decided by lottery and, unlike a number of top schools on the list, does not require an admission test. The best students are rewarded with an annual trip to Europe and Turkey for which they pay just a few hundred dollars.

Teacher salaries are based on merit not pay scales (There is no union)."

Guess my point is -- could we learn from some at the top of the heap? Adding additional resources -- as the Superintendent was seeking a couple of weeks ago -- is not always the answer. Agree with your point on parental involvement. I was just taken back by the salaries of what we already have in place, and the number of assistants and their compensation! In this time of reduced resources, just find it difficult to justify NOT CUTTING, and find the listing provided by Sniffles a WONDERFUL START POINT!!

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 5:52am.

Everyone must try this site. It will make your jaw drop.

The 'bloat' in the school system ...BEFORE... you ever get to the teachers, is mind boggling!

One, BOE member, salary was $7200., but her additional ?travel expenses? were $4500.

Another's salary was $6000.00, but her additional ?travel expenses? were $3,000.?

There are also some unusual, yet familar names, being paid as custodians?

You have 11 mechanics on salary with pay ranging from 38,000. for the lowest, to 83,600. for the hightest.

You have.. 2.. transportation directors, one over $93,000. a year plus $3500.00, travel expenses. The 2nd one, over $102,000., plus almost $8,000. in travel expenses. This is before we pay benifits guys.

Are we hiring limos for these people to get to work in or something?

I'm not picking on the mechanics in particular, but that is just one department I've looked at so far.

This is INSANE!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 1:40pm.

I crunched some numbers for you....Here are the Headcount, average salary, minimum salary and maximum salary for all 99 Board of Education job descriptions, loaded to the web for your perusal:


Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 10:05pm.

When they said they wanted to close down the new elementary school, I almost lost it! Morons. Janet Smola really turned out to be a financial guru for sure. She got her degree from the Madoff school of investing.

Vote Republican

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Fri, 01/16/2009 - 6:37am.

Smola is really a financial guru and I don't know what we would have done without all her wisdom.

Submitted by MacTheKnife on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 2:39pm.

Great piece of work. Thank you for the compilation.

Cyclist's picture
Submitted by Cyclist on Fri, 01/16/2009 - 6:45am.

school board.
Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

Submitted by wheeljc on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 2:06pm.

Shocked at the levels! Appears to be extremely fertile ground for responsible folks to find some cuts. Had no idea of the compensation being provided!!

Sniffles5, this should be required reading for the citizens of Fayette County!

Submitted by Bonkers on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 6:51am.

Maybe a quarter million for transportation directors! $80,000 bus mechanics!
Are they also fixing the school board autos? Or do they take those to the local garage? Can I get my car fixed there--where is this place?

Do they wash Super's autos?
And his wife's?

Does the super pay rent on his home? Electric, etc.?

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 6:08am.

programs. the salaries are from about $5,000., up to almost $31,0000. Guys, this is.. after... schools!

We have business service sectrataries, 4 of them, one making over $65,000. a year.

We have 50 ..suport...clerks? making anywhere from almost nothing, to, 2, over $50,000.

We have 17 people at Crossroads, whatever that is, all making over $50,000. a year.

Submitted by MacTheKnife on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 9:58am.

I certainly hope the individuals you are attempting to embarrass can write and spell better than you 'suggarfoot'.

How much money do you make and what do you do for a living 'suggarfoot'?

As for me, I favor eliminating the after school program entirely if it is a financial drain; however, my experience with these programs makes me think that it is a heavily subsidized program and probably costs us very little to nothing locally.

Either way, please make an attempt to clean up your grammar and spelling before you publicly criticize others.

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 6:53pm.

First let me tell you, it was 6am if you looked n I didn't have on spell check...

Also, if anyone is embarrassed, it might be they are making too much off the backs of the rest of us.

You want to cut the teachers salaries. There is a...lot.. as I pointed out...that could be cut ...before you ever get to the teachers.

I don't care if you think I tried to embarrass anyone or if my grammar isn't what you like. I am sure you are one of many, or their families being fed at the public's $.

$80,000 a year for a mechanic...with a travel voucher for thousands?

I think this is the tip of the iceberg and you can squeal like a stuck pig for all I care, as that is what you might be!

I'm not paying anymore taxes for dog and pony show!

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 8:05am.

Actually, the after-school people do earn their money. Usually the on-site directors are there from noon on to check the schedule for coverage, finish up the BOE paperwork (tons of that), balancing the books, ensuring supplies, tracking who's really going to show up at 2:30 and who won't be IS a fair amount of work. I've seen the hourly people who come in at 2 buying their own books and/or supplies because there's not enough in the budget to cover them. All of these people really care about the kids also, and as a former ASP using parent that was absolutely priceless.
Now, keep in mind that I'm just talking about the individual school's programs, so if you want to fuss about the central office's ASP people, no problem here since it seems the site directors were doing an awful lot that you'd expect the central office to do.

Submitted by Bonkers on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 6:56am.

Throw in the County, state employees located here, all of the city employees, feds here, and retirees, and we don't need any more jobs here!

There are even some airline employees here, subsidized by tax money.
Lots of bank employees, most of which the bailout will pay!

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 6:18am.

deputy/assoc/assista for over $125,000. each, 297 people on the payrole as custodians

people I've just posted...some..of what we are paying...and I've only gone to the D s so far, we haven't even gotten to the E s, as in education....yet..

Submitted by whynot on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 12:51am.

Cal wrote this heart touching story about how he has had to lay off employees of this newspaper because the economy isn't producing revenue for a staff that could be greatly reduced in size if every aspect went to internet instead of paper. It seems like just ten years ago we were fighting so hard to make sure our children had the opportunity to be in a class room that wasn't over crowded so they could learn the subject material and become well educated young adults because they were afforded the "better" education our tax dollars could afford them. Now Cal comes along and feels that, "Fewer teachers are going to have to teach larger numbers of students, and everyone — especially parents and PTO presidents and booster club members — are going to be forced to get by with a lot less than they are used to." No one is whining and bucking against necessity, I just don't want to hear you complain when teachers, firefighters, and police don't live up to your standards because we are already under paid and have to read your lack of thought articles. Why should we take three steps back and have to fight so hard to reclaim the ideals we worked so hard for. My kids deserve the right to have less students in a class room so they aren't distracted. They deserve firefighters and police that aren't affected by the economy because they fight for our right to be safe every day just like the military. If this was the first time the U.S.A. ever experienced a rough economy I would be more tolerable to your words, but do your homework; it isn't! I agree that the local governments in Fayette County will have to live within their means, but don't ask me to sacrifice my kids safety and education so you can write an article that makes you feel good. I will go without food and drink before I sacrifice the education and safety of my children by taking jobs and decent pay away from the people that provide these services. And Yes Cal I said "decent pay", not over paid public employees.

Submitted by PreciousStahr on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 10:04am.

The BOE budget was always about what’s best for the children, nothing else. My research shows that for every 1 million dollar cut in educational expenses results in a one point drop in IQ for each child.

Besides Cal, you are equating free enterprise business with government which is not free enterprise. Government is free money. Government doesn’t have to make a profit like business. You know perfectly well that we have moved to a socialist form of government. Bailout is the name of the game. If you want to stay in business, just get you some TARP money. TARP is not tax money, the government simply prints it.

The BOE can’t print money, they must rely on taxes. I call on my Boe Rep. Janet Smola to oppose your suggestions, and to increase school taxes in 2009 to hire those people Cal laid off. And Cal, stop this silly idea of yours that capitalism still exists in America. Close your newspaper and go get a good job in government. You capitalists are destroying our economy by putting people out of work.

Cal Beverly's picture
Submitted by Cal Beverly on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 5:10pm.

I rarely get into this, but, guys, Precious is yanking your legs out of their sockets with her "boil the babies to feed the hungry" satire.

Come on, enjoy.

Cal Beverly
The Citizen
Fayetteville, Ga. 30214

suggarfoot's picture
Submitted by suggarfoot on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 7:02pm.

you are right, they don't get it.

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 5:22pm.

I was having a good ol time fighting the Comunist dogs and here you come and spoil it all..dang it. I guess I'll have to do verbal tongue twisters with JeffC... your no fun no more..

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 4:53pm.

"You capitalists are destroying our economy by putting people out of work."
You are able to sit there in your house getting your free checks because of Capitalism.. It it was'nt for the productive in our socieity you would not be able to exist..
Please go to France you would love it there...

WakeUp's picture
Submitted by WakeUp on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 11:39am.

Your comments are so weird, so out there that I have to assume you are either a reincarnation of Dragnet or Aggressive Progressive (God rest his digital soul).

Submitted by Bonkers on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 6:43am.

Cal could have done without moaning about laying off a clerk or two, but keeping such as Malkin and other dudes on who get paid, but his point is correct!

Police, Firefighters, Teachers, and Administrators must also cut back numbers and salaries during hard times.

All will have to fill-in the vacancies as required and work harder.

I don't know much about the County Sheriff's department, but I have never seen so many Lt., Captains, Majors, Lt. Colonels, and desk jockeys in one small county office in my life! Same at the Board of Education. It would have been a good time for the new sheriff to have laid off several super-level officers he didn't want instead of demoting and demeaning them.
Unfortunately, his wife should have been one of them!

Sheriff's in this area are "outdated" and unneeded!
All duties except warrants and court and jail business should be done by hired professionals, not popular dudes!

Trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip to not have to reduce expenses is futile! All of us are hurting compared to where we were!

We were mislead and under led for eight years in Washington, but it doesn't mean we need to do that here!

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 1:03pm.

It is more interesting to see which local governments are making it to the end of 2009 without having to hack their departments into pieces.

Yes, some governments addressed their financial concerns and are in good standing. Tyrone, Fayette County, Henry County Board of Education, etc. (Tyrone took a bad situation and made it a lot better.)

It is the "Three Little Pigs" scenario, Peachtree City and the FCBOE were the house of straw.

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 7:56am.

Gigantic shout-out to the Spalding County manager. The far-seeing county manager has been holding steady and/or trimming their budget for about a year and a half now because he could see the end of the housing boom.

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 10:46am.

Well said! All of us need to live within our means.
Just don't get me started on the FCBOE.

Tug Smiling

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 8:40am.

you absolutely hit the nail on the head with this one. We feel your pain here too. I would agree with the guy about home delivery. Would there be a way to opt out? That might be an effective cost-cutting measure for The Citizen. Usually I don't even look at the print edition because I've seen it all online already. Hopefully things will get better for all of us soon.


Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 9:09pm.

I appreciate the home delivery.

How else are you supposed to light your charcoal chimney?

Or read in the study room?

Submitted by mysteryman on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 9:26pm.

When your roll runs out you can use it to wipe, just try not to get none on your hand, and dont try to flush it down the toilet...PEACE..

Submitted by Bonkers on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 10:05am.

Cal isn't likely to answer this in print, but I will tell you his quandary with going subscription only.

His ads are sold on the basis of how many homes get the paper primarily. Right now that is most of them, free.

If they are available by subscription or purchase only, it is assured that the number of homes getting one would decrease substantially--thereby reducing his ability to charge more for an ad!

There is little he can do now until people start advertising again (are profitable).

He can survive by reducing expenses and editorial quality providing his capitalization and overhead are manageable.

Same as everyone else!

Submitted by ptcmom678 on Thu, 01/15/2009 - 7:53am.

and thank you for the clarification. The Citizen has a great staff. I did go through the newsprint paper yesterday and did notice there were some additions from the online version...but unfortunately not in the jobs classifieds Smiling

Submitted by IMNSIO on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 1:26am.

Brings it all home.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 8:11am.

This is why we should not elect people who have no hands-on business experience. PTC and Fayette County have some real business people leading them - school board does not.

Sadly, even those with business experience seem to forget it when they get into government. They treat their election as a paid vacation from reality and accountability and hire, hire, hire and spend, spend, spend. You are exactly right about what they need to do and soon. This recession will last most of 2009 if not all of it and into 2010. All of us - especially government need to get used to operating in this horrible environment.

Many other governments including and especially U.S. Congress do not have people with real business experience and are slow to react except when they do something extremely stupid like the $700 billion bailout.

Spear Road Guy's picture
Submitted by Spear Road Guy on Wed, 01/14/2009 - 7:20pm.

Oh please!!! You're talking about Logsdon or Boone? Maybe Plunkett?

I don't know Sturbaum. Haddix, at least, has common sense.

Logsdon is very dangerous only because he thinks he knows what's going on. He's 5 cans shy of a 6 pack.

If we're not careful, Logsdon is going to sell City Hall to balance the budget.

Vote Republican

Liferfrom65's picture
Submitted by Liferfrom65 on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 8:15pm.

I'm reading this paper online for free. Maybe you should close this website and quit throwing the paper in my yard for free. I don't buy papers or magazines anymore, I read them online for free. I do save the papers from the yard so I'll have something to read on the crapper.

Submitted by wheeljc on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 8:08pm.

Cal, GREAT WORDS OF REASON!! One of the greatest lessons our educators and administrators can teach the kids of today is to live within a budget -- especially when the budget is getting thinner and thinner. Recent revelations of annual salaries of some really causes one to want to see what the students, parents, and State are getting in return for these expenditures -- and we are not talking about teachers!!

Hopefully, elected officials will lead by example during this downturn, and conserve the taxpayer's resources, vice rationalizing unnecessary expenditures (which will become increasingly visible as this downturn continues). Also, hope that these same officials will clearly discern the difference between true needs (clean water and safety), and wants/nice to haves.

Certainly, the public will be watching during this period requiring strong and decisive leadership. If they fail to make the right decisions favoring their bosses -- the taxpayers, then the next election will be easy!!

Great piece Cal!!

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 7:27pm.

After 18 years in business I had to let 2 people go this morning due to the economy. I'm hoping that is a far as I have to cut as this morning was one of the most difficult days I've ever had to face. Firing idiots, trouble makers and deadbeats is a piece of cake and often times a joy that solves often times huge problems. But when you have rock solid team members that you treasure immensely, letting them go is a gut wrenching experience.

Here's to better days to you and your news outlet along with all of your clients. Me being one of them from time to time. Eye-wink

As far as our gumament entities are concerned... Why act responsibly when you're spending other people's money and don't have to be held accountable for fiscal responsibility.

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