The Indian River County School Board has decided to turn the lights off on the taxpayers of this county. At the last meeting, Charles Searcy made the motion to only have one school board business meeting per month. The rest of the board, with the exception of Laura Zorc, followed his lead.
One of the main reasons behind this unprecedented maneuver was to save the district $22,000 per year. This, according to Searcy, includes saving the $100 per meeting that it costs to have sheriff’s deputy for security at these meetings.Ironically, the school district’s annual budget is almost $300 million per year and the savings of $22,000, does not even amount to a 1000th of a percent. The School Board itself has an annual budget of $2.1 million, which includes a very large percentage allocated for legal fees. This seems to be way out of line, when you compare other districts to this one.
In addition to reducing by half its number of scheduled meetings, the School Board has also restricted public access to its meeting by eliminating broadcasts on public access television. Now, the only way the public can now watch these meetings is by “you tube”!
This lack of transparency is beyond the realm of the way a public entity should operate. Let’s compare the Indian River County Commission’s four meetings per month to the school district’s one per month. The budgets are not that far apart in dollar amounts and yet the commission does not have any issues with having their meetings open to the public via television. The commission also meets during the day, a notion the school board does not want to follow, because then the public might actually be able to attend. In contrast, School Board meetings begin at 6:00 p.m., when most parents are home with their families after a hard day’s work.
Now that the School Board is only meeting once a month and these meetings are pretty much in the dark to the public, their salaries become even further out of line. Some School Board members have full time jobs and others only work on state issues, yet they are compensated by the taxpayers here. Shawn Frost stated on the Bob Soos radio show last week that he is much more involved at the state level then he is here. This explains his desire to leave this county and work in Tallahassee after only serving three years on the school board.
This board is following the lead of the superintendent, rather than serving the taxpayers in the manner in which they were elected. By eliminating one of the most transparent ways that taxpayer can see what is happening with the school district, they have decided to cut us out almost completely. The school board needs to reverse itself and actually add more meetings per month, instead of deleting them.
Editor’s note: Randy Heimler is a candidate for the Indian River County School Board, District 4.