School District Voting With Scant Controversy
In the absence of budget controversies and with a state cap on tax increases, the lead-up to this year’s school district voting, on Tuesday, has been uncommonly quiet. That is not to say that the balloting is insignificant; spending plans await approval, and two districts have contests for board seats.
In the East Hampton School District, in addition to annual expenses, taxpayers will be asked to bless an $8.9-million bus and vocational education facility. East Hampton also has the most interesting race for school board, with two seats in play.
Christine DeSanti is seeking re-election, and Jeffrey Erickson and Sarah Minardi are vying for board seats. We are pleased that Ms. Minardi has chosen to run for elected office; she is smart, hard-working, and has experience in community organizations. Ms. DeSanti is the school board’s vice president and has been a strong advocate for the district’s growing vocational efforts. We endorse both. Mr. Erickson is a police officer with an interest in school security, but otherwise we know less about him, which makes him difficult to endorse.
The $8.9 million being put before East Hampton voters covers the cost of purchasing three acres on Springs-Fireplace Road, where the town’s sewage plant had been, construction, and outfitting portions of the building for vocational training. The district’s buses are now parked both on school property on Long Lane and at a leased site on Route 114. Renting the Route 114 property, the former Schaefer Bus Company garage, costs taxpayers $200,000 a year, is in poor repair, and not suitable for educational purposes.
Students now travel to Riverhead at considerable additional expense for training in the trades. Keeping them in the district would greatly improve their school day, and in some cases, allow them time to play high school sports, something their travel schedules make difficult. For the business community, the bus facility’s educational role would prove a plus; many businesses struggle to find qualified workers. Students would have opportunities to be trained and licensed in such fields as auto repair, welding, and automotive computer programming, skills they could immediately use to find well-paying jobs or as stepping-stones toward even more lucrative careers. The bus bond referendum would add about $25 a year to the average property tax bill. It should be approved.
In Amagansett, Mary A. Eames, who has spent countless hours keeping an eye on the school board and its spending priorities, hopes to unseat Dawn Rana-Brophy. While we respect Ms. Eames, we believe her presence would be disruptive on the five-member board of education, which could either turn out to be good or bad, while it is hard to make the case that the Amagansett School is in need of major change. Parents are generally happy, and taxpayers are, for the most part, without complaints. Though she sometimes expresses valid concerns, she appears to represent a limited constituency at best, and we see no compelling reason for the incumbent, Ms. Rana-Brophy, to be replaced. Whatever happens, Ms. Eames is sure to continue her valuable work as a watchdog, including posting videos of school board meetings online.
While there are few contests of note in the remaining South Fork school districts, it is nevertheless important that everyone who can vote does so. Taxpayers should be aware that only school district budgets provide them with a direct say on spending; municipalities make budget decisions after public hearings.
Poll times vary, so it is best to check with the respective districts. See you in the voting booths on Tuesday!