The bad news continues to mount for the schools that will determine the future of this community. Most recently, elementary schools in the Payson School District have been cutting key programs, struggling to cope with reductions in state funding.
All told, the district faces a projected $1.7 million cutback next year.
If voters approve the crucial property tax override, it will trim about $700,000 from that shortfall. Approving the override will cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $11 a year — roughly 3 cents a day.
If the override fails, the cuts could prove crippling —not to mention the blow to the morale of students and teachers alike at such stark evidence that the community doesn’t care about our schools.
Today’s story details some of the cuts already planned for this community’s elementary schools.
Various schools are struggling to keep class sizes manageable. Contrary to some misleading commentary published previously on this page, class sizes at the elementary schools already average from 20 to 27. Classes at the middle school and high school are much larger.
The elementary schools jettison valuable programs, leaving teacher positions unfilled and eliminating valuable extras in a desperate attempt to hold the line. The losses are mounting — a program to temporarily remove disruptive students from classes, a school librarian, physical education teachers, a reading teacher, gifted classes.
All that’s without taking into account the possible defeat of the override.
If the override fails, the district will probably cut 16 positions immediately, resulting in an inevitable rise in class sizes and a cascade of other impacts.
But we don’t think the override will fail.
Payson’s not that kind of town — especially in hard times. No — we’re the kind of town that will donate 50,000 pounds of food and $20,000 to make sure that families don’t go hungry. That’s because people in Payson know that when you have trouble, the one thing you must never do is take it out on your kids.
Water policy shift offers hope
The Payson council has taken one more small step toward helping Rim Country craft a common response to securing an adequate water supply. The new policy will give Payson’s water department more authority to strike deals with neighboring communities that run short of water.
The shift in policy offers one more small sign of the sea of change in regional politics caused by the Blue Ridge pipeline. Instead of struggling bitterly for a limited resource, the Blue Ridge water will enable neighbors to work together for the common good. Instead of letting battles about water define us, water seems likely to provide the basis for the future growth and recreational amenities that will save us economically.
Chronically water-short Mesa del Caballo seems the most immediate beneficiary of such an approach, since it could easily connect to Payson’s system.
Brooke Utilities, which serves that unincorporated community out along Houston Mesa Road, last summer repeatedly had to haul water all the way from Tonto Creek when the pipes ran dry.
The private water company has undertaken a study to figure out whether it makes sense to drill another well to serve the community — but a deal with Payson could provide an even better solution — at least in the short term.
A short, temporary pipeline could easily connect Mesa del Caballo to Payson’s existing system, which would provide a backup water supply to avert future shortages.
If the community can strike a deal with the Salt River Project for a share of the Blue Ridge water, a permanent connection along essentially the same route could provide a long-term solution starting in about 2014.
Of course, Brooke Utilities will have to pay the full cost of obtaining that water supply for its customers, but the deal seems critical to the long-term future of Mesa del Caballo and all the other communities along the pipeline.
The Payson Town Council approved the shift in policy last week, which builds on its early decision to end years of conflict with Star Valley by entering into an agreement that will offer its neighbor a reliable, backup water supply, limits on groundwater pumping and status to secure Blue Ridge water as well.
We applaud this latest move by the Payson council to promote a regional approach to Rim Country’s water supply needs.