Gurney's Inn
May 10, 2006

School Budget Time

This week's issue, published just days before the public votes on its school district's budget, is filled with information to help voters make the right decision.

There is a recap of all the proposed budgets in our reading area, but there is also a study of State Education Department data (page 8) and Dom Annacone's "Eye On Education" column. (See page 36.)

A review of the data is disturbing. East End schools with a few exceptions are models of academic mediocrity and runaway spending. Parents, students and property owners alike need to be concerned that we continue to hemorrhage money without getting the kind of educational excellence associated with elite districts elsewhere in the state.

Our local school boards, at the mercy of administrators who believe throwing money at the problem will make it better, continue to approve double-digit spending increases. Voters are warned "only the kids will suffer" if the budgets are defeated and unfortunately, that is correct — extra-curricular activities are the first things cut from contingency budgets. (See cost cutting story on page 10.)

Voters need to address their concerns at the polls nevertheless. If your school board isn't doing the job right, vote out the incumbents. If your administrators are overpaid and don't produce positive results, make your school board know a change of direction is needed.

Last year, for example, in a display of chutzpah seldom seen, the lame duck Sag Harbor School Board voted its superintendent a generous contract extension rather than allow the incoming board to decide. That kind of arrogance shouldn't go unpunished (see a related article in this week's issue on page 34.)

Dr. Annacone concludes that we are overpaying our teachers and administrators. We also seem to be adding more and more layers of non-teaching personnel to the school payroll.

The philosophy behind school spending is what needs to be changed. Our districts decide what they need to run the school and tax us accordingly. The result is ever-increasing taxes. For those of us on fixed incomes, the results can be devastating.

In the real world a district would be run like a business. Figure out how much money is available and make your payroll fit your budget.

The bottom line is our schools are not good schools. Only you, the taxpayer, can change that fact.

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