Editorial: Mattituck deserves a better track

10/24/2013 9:00 AM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The existing cinder track at Mattituck High School would be replaced by a synthetic track if voters approve a $925,000 bond proposal Tuesday.

We understand why you’d grumble any time a local school district puts a bond proposal up for a vote. We all pay enough in taxes and the vast majority of what we do pay already goes to the schools.

So it’s easy to see why some residents of Mattituck and Cutchogue would automatically want to reject a $925,000 bond proposal to build a new synthetic track at the high school.

When weighing the merits of a bond issue, however, it’s important to consider its benefits as well as its impact on the wallet. A high school track can certainly be of importance to the health of many members of a school community — not just the varsity athletes who will use it most — especially at a time when obesity rates in the U.S. are higher than ever before. But as our society becomes more health conscious and life expectancy continues to lengthen, public funding of easily accessible recreational opportunities for people of all ages will only become more vital.

Considering this, paying roughly $10 a year for 15 years to have a track built at your local high school doesn’t seem too much to ask. And let’s not pretend a quality running track — better than the cinder track currently in place at the school — is not commonplace at high schools everywhere.

We suggest that, should the measure gain approval Tuesday, the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District do its part to ensure that the new track remains a public benefit, available for community use and appropriate public events.

Additionally, one noteworthy development in recent months has been the end of an agreement between the Mattituck and Greenport school districts that allowed the Porters track teams to practice in Mattituck. While some might argue it’s not the responsibility of Mattituck-Cutchogue residents to pay for a track used by students from another school district, state aid increases given to districts participating in shared-service agreements might have made a sustained pact financially beneficial to Mattituck-Cutchogue School District taxpayers. For example, Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) awarded $150,000 in state funding to the Southold and Greenport school districts this year in an effort to further various shared-service plans between them. Coincidentally, the state aid hike came after Greenport and Southold agreed to create a joint track team this year.

Mattituck school officials have said the decision to end the agreement with Greenport was based on a rule from Section XI — the organization governing high school sports in Suffolk County — stating that a school district must provide its own facilities if it has enough students to form a team. That may be the case but we suspect a plan that would allow students of outside districts to use Mattituck’s track for practice might also have made it even more challenging to get the bond proposal approved by district voters. It seems that might have been just as big a factor as compliance with Section XI rules in the district’s decision to end the arrangement.

All that said, we believe an up-to-date new track would enhance not only the experience of many Mattituck-Cutchogue high school athletes but the overall health of the community as well. That makes this bond worth supporting.