The Herald Bulletin

August 17, 2013

Editorial: ACS budget, enrollment stability worth the wait

— Felix Chow was hired as schools superintendent in 2009 with the hopes of stabilizing both a dwindling enrollment and a faltering budget in the Anderson Community Schools district.

At the time, schools were being shuttered and enrollment was spiraling downward. A financial deficit was a frightening reality.

As of this week, Chief Financial Officer Kevin Brown said he expects a $1 million budget surplus in 2014 and for enrollment to settle at about 6,900 students. Brown and Chow should be credited for this stabilization, as should teachers and staffers in leading the effort to keep spending in check.

With finances in control, however, leaders in the school system, as well as teachers, staffers and families must acknowledge that the district’s image is far from perfect. With Chow retiring from his post, the work has to continue to focus on student achievement. Indeed, there are upward positive trends going on with the 8-Step Process of review, as well as IREAD and ISTEP evaluations and graduations rates.

The improvements, even if some seem slight, reflect a different school system than four years ago. Parents and taxpayers should have a sense of security and hope.

School budgets are tougher to balance -- even predict -- than most taxpayers care to hear. Legislative changes in formulas and mandated expenses often throw off the best of school accountants. Indeed, it can take years to finally get a grasp on what a district can predict for its budget.

That’s why the Anderson district should be commended for hanging in there amid unprecedented change. When Felix Chow steps down Aug. 30, Anderson residents know the work of education is never finished. But everyone can breathe a sigh of thanks knowing that the budget is in fine shape.