Editorial: So much for ‘cost neutral’ in Oysterponds

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Oysterponds school board president Deborah Dumont.

It came as absolutely no surprise that the Oysterponds school board, in a divided vote, agreed Monday night to allow parents to send their 7th- through 12th-grade students to either Greenport or Mattituck. Given the board majority’s strong feelings on the issue, the vote was little more than a formality.

But as one controversy reaches denouement, another arises. Hardly shocking for this school district.

It wasn’t until Tuesday night, during a budget work session, that some board members and residents learned the decision is far from “cost neutral,” as those who supported adding the Mattituck option wanted everyone to believe. School superintendent Joan Frisicano informed the board that, according to her “guesstimate,” the Mattituck option could saddle Oysterponds taxpayers with a $100,000 expense to cover additional tuition and transportation costs.

It seems the board majority didn’t want those who disagree with them to read the “fine print.” Board president Deborah Dumont’s hair-splitting explanation that “the schools themselves are cost neutral” is callous at best and irresponsible at worst.

Emotions aside, here’s the financial bottom line: In caving to the unidentified residents unhappy with Greenport’s educational offerings the Oysterponds board is placing an unwarranted financial burden on their own constituents, the residents of East Marion and Orient who find no reason to weaken the historic link between those communities and the Greenport school system.

As we noted before, the switch puts a financial strain on Greenporters, who on May 15 will vote on their budget without knowing how many Oysterponds kids might join the 7th-grade class in September or, as a result, how much their district will receive in tuition payments.

One Oysterponds parent has been quite vocal in his judgment of Greenport’s schools, saying he’s willing to pay $16,000 annually to send his kids elsewhere. That’s his, and every other parent’s, prerogative. Private schools like McGann-Mercy in Riverhead, Our Lady of Mercy in Cutchogue and the Ross School in East Hampton are filled with students whose parents made the decision to pay tuition on top of the property taxes they pay for the public schools in their communities. And it has always been thus.

The Oysterponds board majority continues to misread their charge and responsibilities. They were elected to do what’s best for the majority and they’re simply not doing that.