Supervisor Aguiar really tore into the school board this week. She was right to do so.
Aguiar said: “They’re getting beat up on the budget.” “They’re looking to create a distraction and they’re using [a lawsuit against the town] to do it, to get media attention and take it away from an impending budget that they haven’t been able to pass.”
As RiverheadLOCAL reported, Aguiar called the threatened lawsuit “frivolous and political,” because RCSD’s “claim” will be fully resolved before it could possibly reach the courtroom. The school board’s threat sure looks empty.
I differ only in believing the school board is trying to distract voters from much more than the failed budget.
The “resignation” of the superintendent on one day’s notice —together with paying her perhaps $200,000 or more in continued salary — is a good example. Shades of Joe Ogeka.
As with Ogeka, the board will say nothing about what really happened (though most folks in town seem to know —or claim to.) For me, it doesn’t matter; when there’s a string of personnel problems this massive and costly, the folks doing the hiring —supervising the superintendent — need to be held accountable.
Then, there’s the scandalous fact that RCSD claims to be unable to tell taxpayers how many millions were conserved during the shutdown. That info is “unavailable” until after the budget re-vote. How convenient.
Would the conserved money pay for all the programs the board says will be cut if the budget fails again? (Predictably, they named popular activities and services most likely to motivate school parents to get out the vote.) By the time we know the answer, it will be too late.
The biggest problem, however — even larger than the failed budget & the superintendent’s payout — is the extreme arrogance of the board in resubmitting the same budget taxpayers rejected a month ago. No thinking person believes their stated reason: “The Board of Education believes that this is a responsible budget.”
I imagine their thinking went something like this:
RCSD elections are typically decided by about 10% of the voters.
This year’s turnout was 150% higher than usual only because everyone got absentee ballots and voting was easy.
The governor “gifted” us by requiring an in-person election, even while our board still meets virtually to ensure our own safety.
We could probably send every voter an absentee ballot, but we’re not required to.
Making voters take the extra step of applying for an absentee ballot, coupled with pandemic safety concerns, will surely result in turnout far lower than a month ago.
Conclusion: we need not worry about taxpayer concerns and sentiment; changed voting circumstances will make the same budget a sure winner this month.
I believe in (and sent my kids to) public schools — so why do I care? Though I now live in Pennsylvania and can’t vote in Riverhead, I still pay taxes on Riverhead property, to the tune of about $14,000 this year. I always remember what I fear most taxpayers forget: well over half our taxes go to the schools.
This year, over 60 cents of every dollar I send to the Riverhead assessor will be handed directly to the RCSD board. This year, I’m more certain than ever that my taxes will be spent irresponsibly, by an unaccountable school board incapable of proper and sensible governance.
I suggest voting no.
Larry Simms is a former resident of South Jamesport. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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