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Our Thoughts... Millage increase should be last resort
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Last week the Newton County Board of Education met to discuss a variety of issues including the upcoming budget and in that discussion considered increasing the millage rate.
 We recognize the fact that this elected board has some very tough decisions to make in reducing the school budget in order to balance it as mandated by state law. We expect them to make those tough decisions - after all, it's why we elected them to lead.
 However, this editorial board is opposed to any millage rate increase until all cost-cutting measures have been exhausted. Other districts are closing schools, going to four-day weeks, cutting bus services and letting go of non-essential personnel. These are unpopular decisions, yes, but schools' main goal should be to educate children not, to babysit them.
 The fact that property values have plummeted due to the massive amount of foreclosures in our area does not justify raising taxes when many have lost their jobs or taken pay cuts. Also, the majority of county voters made an unwise decision a few years back to approve a senior homestead tax exemption. Hindsight is 20/20; however, the state was making austerity reductions at that time too and to short the system of local dollars along with those cuts was irresponsible.
 Newton Countians need this board to be brave enough and in agreement to make the necessary cuts to balance the budget. Those cuts will no doubt burden many members of our community, but perhaps that is better than saddling every homeowner in the county with more taxes that many cannot afford.
 Any action the board takes at this time will undoubtedly upset some faction of the county population. But, now is the time for all of us to live within our means and this includes our schools and government. Again, schools are responsible for educating children - nothing more - and at the same time accountable to the taxpayers who foot the bill allowing them to do so.