News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Curb travel; use savings to serve taxpayers better

Tennessee Valley school systems, among others, deserved the rewards they got Thursday in Montgomery when the state Board of Education held a ceremony in honor of academic excellence.

Schools in Decatur and in Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties received Accountability Awards totaling $143,000 for making progress in student achievement, especially when overcoming challenges. Almost $3 million in state and federal funds was earmarked for such awards, and 330 public schools around the state received them.

We congratulate the schools for earning the awards and the state for encouraging excellence by passing out money that can be used for further achievements and improvements.

But reports that the state board’s meeting room was standing-room-only when these awards were handed out give us pause. We hope all those people were in Montgomery for other reasons, not mainly to pick up their checks.

Here’s a little math: An average round trip to Montgomery from the far reaches of the state is 309 miles. Apply the standard Internal Revenue Service reimbursement rate of 44.5 cents per mile, and that’s $138 in mileage expense for one vehicle.

Of course, some people are closer to Montgomery and don’t travel that far. But we couldn’t begin to calculate the cost of the time spent traveling and engaging in activities (such as standing in crowded meeting rooms) in the capital city. Plus, those people have to eat.

You get the idea. Trips to Montgomery can eventually cost thousands of dollars that could be used to make the schools even better. And think of the time required, which could be spent educating children or doing administrative work like tracking the expiration dates of property taxes.

Public officials also travel out of Montgomery to hand out money. Lester Sellers, legislative chairman of the Alabama Association of Boards of Registrars, filed an ethics complaint against Secretary of State Nancy Worley. It accuses her of traveling at state expense to present checks to counties so they can buy voting equipment, and of using these events to get publicity for herself.

Creditors wince when they hear “The check’s in the mail,” but it ought to delight taxpayers when it staves off unnecessary travel.

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