School taxes take the biggest tax bite out of commercial and residential property owners’ bank accounts. On average, they account for about two-thirds of the bill, and it’s a hefty one. The combined cost to keep public schools going in Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island is in the neighborhood of $200 million each year. A startling figure, but East End communities seem to believe that their schools provide a solid education that’s worth the investment. Of course, not everyone believes that, especially in this less-than-sunny financial climate.
With that much money on the line, it might seem odd that so few people are running for school board seats in the May 17 elections. In the seven districts within those three towns there are but two contested seats. There are a few ways to look at that.
It could be that people believe current board members are doing the best they can under very difficult circumstances. Then again, who has the time or temperament to campaign for a seat that pays nothing, can be extremely time-consuming and may put you at odds with friends and neighbors for possibly — if not probably — voting to cut programs and staff while still raising taxes?
It’s a tough job with absolutely no glitz or glamour. We all should be grateful that we have community-minded people, even if only just enough, willing to step forward and fill each of the school boards. What would we do without them?