Looking Out for Taxpayers
We are fortunate to have elected officials like Linda Kabot and Greg Ferraris setting the appropriate tone for reining in spending. Linda Kabot cut her salary by $5,000 when she took office as town supervisor of Southampton as well as freezing the salaries of administrators. As the town supervisor, she oversees a population of nearly 60,000 residents. In promoting more transparency, Supervisor Kabot posted the budget and salaries for the Town of Southampton on the town’s website.
Greg Ferraris, the mayor of the Village of Sag Harbor, and the village trustees likewise took a 10 percent pay cut.
Fred Thiele, our state assemblyman who represents 130,000 constituents, has not gotten a pay raise since 1999. He still earns only $79,500 a year as a member of the legislature. Assemblyman Thiele is always looking out for the taxpayers first.
These are just three public servants who attempt to set an example of running a leaner government. Supervisor Kabot and Mayor Ferraris chose to cut their salaries, not only discretionary spending in these difficult times. Their modest gestures communicate immeasurable good will to the public. It would be nice if the Sag Harbor Board of Education set the same tone for the 2009-2010 budget. Maybe the board should look into staffing ratios to offset any pay raises they contemplate.
Good News in the Snow
These days when all the news seems bad and I woke up to a snowfall that I knew would take me a week to dig out. I couldn’t help but feel a bit discouraged and somewhat gloomy.
Well, it didn’t turn out to be such a bad day, A gentleman passing by in his grey combination station wagon/panel truck/SUV (I’m not good at identifying cars these days) with Emerson written in chrome on the side, stopped and, taking a shovel out of the back of his vehicle, lent a hand. Cheerfully saying “community service,” he dug right in and quickly shoveled all the heavy buildup from the snowplows making the street accessible and then, just as quickly before we could exchange names, he went on his way.
How could anyone be discouraged after such an act of kindness? I thanked him then and if you know him, give him a pat on the back for a job well done.
Finding Educational Cost Balance
In last week’s editorial you refer to a per pupil cost of “upwards of $25,000 per year to teach a kid.” You then reflect on this statement and assert “the truth of the matter is it really doesn’t cost that much — not to teach them — since there are non-educational expenses such as transportation mixed in with the budget.”
Your entire premise needs further clarification.
This important statistic, data gathered by the New York State Education Department, and presented in “Vital Signs,” reports that the per pupil cost is calculated by taking the total budget minus transportation divided by school enrollment. It makes no assertion that this is a teaching expense only. It is a total per pupil expense in a school district without considering transportation, and a valuable starting point when analyzing or benchmarking a school district’s cost and efficiencies.
You join the ranks of many well-meaning people and groups that just don’t accept this and other valuable statistics available to them in analyzing and comparing district costs.
These valuable statistics include, but are not limited to the following: teacher to pupil ratio, teaching assistant to pupil ratio, total staff enrollment ratios, percent of Regents diplomas, and percent of graduates enrolling in four year college programs. These statistics must be incorporated with other statistics in guiding school districts to determine future strategic approaches to evolving needs. The teaching experience and higher education accomplishment of faculties should be compared when making any analysis, along with percentages of students in different programs, as well as many other considerations.
Finally, and importantly, the demographic make up of a school district should be analyzed and considered, and in addition, the economy of the district and beyond should play into the strategic planning of the future structure and cost of a school district. Currently, my understanding is, the Sag Harbor property taxpayers are composed of about 55% second homeowner taxpayers who do not vote here and their children are not enrolled in the school district, 20% senior citizens and around 10% of taxpayers who send their children to parochial and private schools at a minimal cost to the district.
As we move forward, we should make every effort to protect our community, consider all of our taxpayers and this difficult economy in our district’s educational planning. We should challenge and validate statistics as we analyze and benchmark comparable data.
I am sure that working together all responsible parties that influence strategic decisions for our school district can achieve results that reflect both a high quality education for our students, as well as a responsibility to the property taxpayer, many of whom are without a voice or a family participation in the educational process.
They mean what they say. George W. Bush came into office trumpeting his “compassionate conservative” credentials. He meant just that: he gave tax breaks to the corporations and wealthy individuals towards whom alone his compassion was directed.
He told investors his name was Madoff, but they paid no attention until he mad(e)-off with their money.
The Republican Party wants Sarah Palin to be their next Commander-in-Chief. They just might mean it until they find out who she is paling with across the Bering Strait. Watch out! However, that could mean good relations with Russia.
It is time we started paying very close attention to what people say — especially prominent business and public figures. Failure to do so could be costly. People don’t always mean what they say or say what they mean. But they sometimes do.