It’s time to score a birdie for our schools

It's time to score a birdie for our schools By David Lias Why aren�t our schools run like a business?

It�s a lament heard often in South Dakota, especially in recent years as public school districts, including Vermillion�s, face a myriad of financial challenges.

The answer in many people�s minds is simple: public schools should do the same thing that the business world does when the economy goes south.

They should do the same thing that farmers do when it doesn�t rain, or when livestock prices hit rock bottom, or when fuel and fertilizer expenses climb sky high.

During tough economic times, the business sector usually reacts by cutting staff to reduce payroll, or working harder to bring in extra revenue, by holding a Crazy Days or big holiday promotion � something that shoppers generally find appealing

School districts can cut staff, to a point (we�ve learned that here in the Vermillion School District). But the source of extra revenue?

Property taxes. The equivalent, in some people�s minds, to a plague on society.

The Vermillion School Board, after sharpening their pencils and crunching budget figures, realized earlier this year that it must attempt to opt-out of the state property tax freeze. Failure to bring in additional revenue will mean cutting the school budget by approximately $350,000 in the next school year.

Those cuts would be in addition to $1 million that�s been trimmed from the general fund in the last four years.

Concentrate. Think about the impact that a $1 million budget reduction has had on our local public education.

Now think about golf. More specifically, The Bluffs, the city-owned links.

If you aren�t a golfer, one word adequately describes the 18 hole course: paradise. The fairways and greens are lush; the layout is spectacular, and no matter how many times you golf there, it offers new challenges.

And, it�s been losing money. Expenses exceeded revenues by over $22,000 last year. The Vermillion City Council and the local golf course advisory board recently reviewed their options.

They could cut staff, but that likely would result in a decline of the quality of the course, leading to fewer golfers and a further reduction in revenue.

So attention was focused on The Bluffs� fee structure. Rates haven�t increased since 1997. Discussion centered on what golfers would want more � stable rates and a decrease in the quality of The Bluffs� operations, or higher rates to insure that the course will remain one of the jewels of southeastern South Dakota.

Rates will go up this year by about 10 percent. The Bluffs also will host tournaments and scrambles to bring in additional revenue.

City leaders are confident that golfers are willing to pay a bit more to maintain quality.

The Vermillion community takes its golf seriously. How about education?

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at

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