"Fixed costs" such as those boards of education must deal with for everything from insurance to utilities really are not fixed. They tend to go up, year after year.
For that reason it is virtually impossible for a school board to maintain good services without substantial spending increases from year to year. But Brooke County educators seem to have found a way.
A $29,493,550 preliminary budget for the coming year was approved this week by the Brooke County Board of Education. It is up less than two-tenths of one percent from the current year's $29,437,682 spending plan.
As might have been expected, the budget increases reflect higher costs for employees' health insurance and for staff pay raises mandated by state law.
In addition to holding base spending down, school board members and administrators are adopting another wise approach to budgeting, involving a large payment the school system is expected to receive from Chesapeake Energy.
As a result of agreeing to allow the company to drill for natural gas under school system property, the board is to receive a $661,500 one-time payment from Chesapeake. If gas is found and produced, the board also may receive royalties in the future.
None of the $661,500 was included in the preliminary budget. That is wise for two reasons. First, the money is not in hand yet.
Second, the windfall will be just that - a non-recurring payment that cannot be counted upon for the future.
Instead of using the Chesapeake money for normal operating expenses, board members plan to establish a fund for special projects such as building improvements.
That is prudent and may, in the long run, save taxpayers money.
By holding the line on spending and planning wisely for use of the gas drilling money, Brooke County board members are serving taxpayers, in addition to students, well.