On May 18, Sag Harbor school district residents will go to the polls and vote on a 2010-2011 school budget of $31,500,811. If that budget passes, it would represent a 12.76 percent tax increase in school taxes for Southampton residents and a 10.16 percent increase for East Hampton residents.
But if the budget doesn’t pass after being put before voters two times, the district will be forced to resort to a contingency budget and required to make an additional $1,649,790 in cuts from 2010-2011 programming.
So what would likely be targeted in such a move? At this point your guess is as good as ours. Possibly sports programs, student clubs, plays and some employees. But who knows for sure? Certainly not the voters.
And that’s a problem.
The 800 pound gorilla that remains seated squarely in the middle of the school board’s desk is these cuts in the event of contingency. We all know there’s a certain dollar amount the school board will have to get down to under a contingency budget, and we imagine the board has some ideas on what those potential cuts might be. But if they have, they haven’t discussed them in public and have yet to let the voters know what they’re thinking.
It’s time to share the pain. The voting public in general, and parents especially, deserve to know what’s at stake in the event this district goes to a contingency budget. How can voters possibly make an informed decision at the poll if they aren’t being given all the relevant information?
So in the coming weeks, we implore the board to offer a real and substantive discussion about what another $1.6 million in cuts would look like to programming. When the storm’s on the horizon, it’s time to make plans — not after the roof has blown off. And if this is our future, we’d better start planning for it now — our children’s education is riding on it.