Shelter Island Reporter editorial: Vote yes on the school budget tomorrow

School officials and members of the Board of Education have spent several months looking for ways to finance the 2021-22 school year while staying within the state-imposed tax cap and avoiding cutting back on the educational programs.

They have succeeded on both counts.

When you cast your ballot tomorrow, Tuesday, May 18, consider that the educational experiences that students have are created by a forward-looking administration and teachers who work far beyond their required hours, to give every student the best opportunity to excel. Thanks to the education Shelter Island students receive, they gain admission to top colleges and technical schools, preparing them to perform well in their future careers.

Your tax dollars have created the opportunities students have.

True, a state audit last year showed the district had more than the allowable 4% of the budget in its unassigned fund balance. But that’s not unusual, especially for small districts where 4% is unlikely to be sufficient for many unanticipated needs. The state has begun to recognize that and discuss the possibility of raising the allowable unassigned fund balance to 10%. Since the state’s criticism, district officials have transferred most of the excess fund balance to specified funds, such as the repair fund from which the septic project is being paid.

This summer, the school will undertake a project to replace the aged systems that have resulted in high levels of nitrates in the water. But instead of spiking the budget to pay for the work, the money is available without raising more tax money to meet the expense.

It’s not unusual for school districts to create such special funds that allow for major purchases without spiking budgets year to year.

We have every confidence that the district is using money wisely and demonstrating transparency in its use.

We strongly recommend you vote yes on the budget resolution without reservation. 

And we also urge voters to cast their ballots to re-elect Board of Education President Kathleen Lynch and members Margaret Colligan and Karina Montalvo. These three women are conscientious stewards of the school district who deserve to be rewarded with new terms for the work they have dedicated themselves to do for the youth and community of Shelter Island.

The election for Board of Education candidates and on the school district’s budget will be Tuesday, May 18, from noon to 9 p.m., in the school gymnasium. All registered voters are eligible to cast ballots.