As president of one of the largest civic associations in the Town of Southampton, I am writing to express my great disappointment and confusion over your decision not to cover a worsening state aid issue that, if unresolved, will lead to substantially increased local property taxes for nearly 12,000 residents of Southampton Town. How can a potential problem so severe fail to make the threshold for newsworthiness in my hometown paper? Sadly, upon my inquiry, your reporter could only tell me that her editors have decided not to cover the Riverhead School District.
So, what’s the actual news story that you decided to skip?
Well, I can tell you, because I also read the Riverhead News Review, which did cover the January 18 rally for Foundation Aid. Simply stated, the New York State aid formula that is intended to level the educational playing field, called Foundation Aid, has incomprehensibly been turned on its head. Five modest-income suburban districts, including Riverhead, are seeing falling state aid for costs such as teachers, counselors and administrators, while affluent districts receive ever-larger proportions of their costs from the state trough.
Who did it? The New York State Legislature and our governor. Why? That is the question.
The Riverhead Central School District, in which so many Southampton Town residents live, has seen its per pupil aid fall from well above 50 percent just a few years ago, down to about 40 percent. At the same time, some suburban school districts located in wealthy areas are receiving 70 to 80 percent of their costs from New York State.
The decreasing aid for us translates into tens of millions of dollars in new taxes that will have to be paid by the least affluent in our region. And those taxes are not just for the taxpayers of Riverhead — they are coming due for a substantial number of property owners in the Town of Southampton.
Sounding more like news in our town? I should hope so.
The rapidly increasing student enrollment in the Riverhead School District means thousands of Southampton Town residents will be facing double-digit property tax rate increases. Yet this massively unfair and cruel shift of state tax revenues to the wealthy is unjust and should be called out as such by the news media —and that means The Southampton Press, in my neighborhood!
For the working-class communities west of the canal, that is real news, and that should be covered closely by our town newspaper!
Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association
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