Editorial: More Details, More Time

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It may seem that everyone on the South Fork has oodles of money amid rising assessments on property values. But for those who have been here for 10, 20 or 30 years, some with families that have lived here for generations, the reality is clear: There are people struggling with the high cost of living, especially the high cost of housing. And while a single year’s increase in property taxes may seem minimal, when looked at over a 10-year timeframe, the impacts can be much more substantial.

We are staunch supporters of public education, of teachers and of increased programming for children, especially in an area where options are limited without the proper financial resources, or parents who work two, or even three jobs to make ends meet.

The Sag Harbor School District, in reviewing its budgets, has wisely ensured that its reserves are fully funded — planning for the future in this way is a luxury not every district enjoys and one that taxpayers may benefit from in years to come.

While we appreciate school board members looking at what is possible under the “less is more” model, when it comes to detailed information about how a particular budget is funded, or the time we spend talking about those details, more is definitely better.

The Sag Harbor School Board this week was presented with proposed spending plans for the elementary school, middle-high school and the special education department — clearly some of the most important information for the board to consider before it finalizes a plan to present to voters this spring. While previous budgets, including those for athletics, transportation and buildings and grounds, provided line-by-line breakdowns in spending, this was not available at the first presentation of these budgets.

In fairness, a senior administrator told The Express they were still in the process of finalizing some of the budget breakdowns, and more information would be forthcoming — there is another budget workshop scheduled for next Monday. But the fact remains, Sag Harbor School District is one of the few that has yet to show a total budget projection for its draft plan. Without these line items, without an understanding of how it all feeds into a larger picture, and with just one more budget work session planned before a separate meeting where the board will adopt the spending plan, we are concerned there will be too little time to workshop as a board — with the community — if necessary.

We hope at the next budget session the community can begin to understand what all these numbers mean, and that the board takes the time to schedule another workshop to revisit those numbers, if necessary, ask questions and make suggestions that could benefit students and taxpayers alike.

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