When Will Ventnor & Margate School Boards Make Tough Decisions?

Ventnor and Margate Student enrollment on decline, while heavy costs remain.

Ventnor school rooms lost 30% of their students over the last seven years. Ventnor School board President James Pacanowski agreed there’s a perception that the district may be overstaffed.

Ventnor School Enrollment on Fast Decline:

  • 2017 – 701 students
  • 2016 – 752 students
  • 2011 – 905 students

These sobering facts pushed Downbeach resident, John Sewell, to craft the following Letter To The Editor:

Albert Einstein once observed that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result was the very definition of insanity.

The Ventnor Board of Education’s hiring of a consultant to study demographics is an exercise in utter futility.

The school board could learn a lot by simply studying the demographic snafu that led Margate to go needlessly into steep and costly bonded indebtedness for a totally superfluous Ross School.

Demographics are at best pure guesstimates hardly worth the paper they are printed on.

Besides, why spend good money to regurgitate the patently obvious? The cold, hard reality is that South Jersey and Atlantic County in particular are in a very deep and lasting economic contraction that will not reverse itself for years to come.

Atlantic County leads the entire nation in foreclosures.

This is due largely to the collapse of the gaming industry that has laid off tens of thousands of workers. With their mortgages under water, countless thousands simply walked away, leaving unkempt eyesores behind, further depressing real estate valuations and ratables.

Were this not enough, the Sandy storm literally put a slew of affordable housing in Ventnor Heights under water and out of existence. This double whammy has left Ventnor reeling.

With property values plummeting, it necessitated a costly reval that invariably leads to higher taxes in a state that already has the highest property taxes in the nation.

Under these conditions, the Ventnor BOE is staring down a host of very difficult decisions. As the student population sharply contracts, the cost per pupil rises. The burden upon already strained taxpayers grows ever more onerous and further contributes to flight and to decline in property valuations.

These problems did not arise overnight, nor will they dissipate any time soon. Certainly, it will be painful to reverse these trends.

However, a strict wage and hiring freeze is a good start to achieving the state-mandated “thorough and efficient” education.

As student enrollment continues to decline precipitously, more radical measures may be required. However, less radical approaches might include renewed efforts at far more comprehensive shared services with Margate to achieve true economy of scale.

Yes, some officials can chant autonomy and home rule, but they should cast a wary eye to Atlantic City to see just what happens when government expenditures and debt service are no longer sustainable.

Why wait until it’s too late?

John Sewell, Margate

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