In the 2009 budget, the Tallahassee City Commission cut $50,000 from the elementary school crossing guard program and cut another $30,000 by eliminating the DARE program. However, in November of 2008 the City of Tallahassee found $89,000 to donate to the Leon County School system for the “Schools on Solar Program.”
Why?…In a letter, responding to the concerns of Jackie Pons, Leon County School Superintendent, Mayor Marks wrote:
“It is unfortunate that many City, County, and State Governments are in a situation where budgets must be cut and yet continue to provide the high level of service to which many have grown accustomed. Reducing the school crossing guard budget was an extremely difficult decision for our City Commission to make, as were many others that impacted many important service areas in our community.”
But if budget issues are the problem, why fund the “Schools on Solar” program. One possible answer is outlined in the City’s “GREEN INITIATIVES 2008 Annual Report”. In that publication, the “Schools on Solar” program is listed as a “Go Green Tallahassee” initiative award winner.
Another possible answer for the cuts is the direction coming from the City Commission. In a number of interviews of city employees by Tallahassee Reports, it has been revealed that the directive from the “4th Floor” is to focus on “going green.” The recent budget decisions seem to reflect this priority.
According to the City’s website, the solar program’s “main focus… is education. “Schools on Solar” will provide students information on energy conservation and renewable energy.” This education does not include any discussion of the immediate costs associated with solar power. In fact, as with the Trousdale Solar Project, information on the City’s website severly over states the economic benefit of the project.
Update..in a document detailing Tallahassee’s $118,000,000 wish list from the yet to be passed stimulus bill, the City is asking for $5,000,000 to expand the “Schools on Solar Program”. If recieved, the $5 million would be spent on electricty generation that is 5-10 times more expensive than what we currently pay. In addition, 70%-80% of the $5,000,000 stimulus will go to Arizona to help create jobs making the solar panels.
Update.. Mayor Marks and City Commissioner Gillum opposed the crossing guard budget cuts. However, during the same meeting, all five City Commissioners voted for the creation of the Green Department at a cost of $200-$300,000.