During the Nov. 17 board of education meeting for the Bayport-Blue Point school district, vice president Brian Johnson brought forth a proposal to use surplus money in the school budget towards lighting on the fields of the high school campus.
In a presentation from superintendent of finance Richard Snyder, it was revealed that there was, currently, a 1.8 million surplus in the budget (over the 4 percent reserve) carried over from the previous year due to the shutdown from the pandemic this past spring.
Johnson proposed that the school district utilize approximately $1 million of that surplus (a figure calculated from previous budget proposals) for new lighting systems for the football and lacrosse fields.
“Every year we have $1.5 million excess; if we wait until the audit it will be too late to use,” said Johnson, who insisted that the community had already supported lighting in the past and thus, should be included in the budget.
Superintendent Dr. Timothy Hearney warned that the district should be “very cautious” and that “things change very quickly,” offering a budget update every two months to the board to gauge the viability of Johnson’s proposal.
Board member Daniene Byrne, who made it clear that she was neutral on the subject, voiced concern that community members who live around the area may not want the bright lights, and said that should the community be in full support, the lights should be included in a bond.
Board member Jason Borowski went on record to affirm his objection to consider the lighting expenditure at this point and said, “How would we actively propose this when we are cutting services? This is completely tone-deaf to the taxpayer.” Borowski also affirmed that he is not against the lights, but is for being fiscally responsible in the timing of funding for them.
President Michael Miller, appearing to be on the side of Johnson, spoke of the $4.9 million unassigned budget and said it was a trend in the district’s annual finances.
Johnson further added, “There’s some point where you save enough money that you say, ‘I’ll take the family on vacation.’”
When news of the proposal hit the local Facebook pages, the community response was not overwhelming, but seemed split between those who thought that the proposal was ludicrous during the pandemic and the impending significant drop in funding from the state, and also not reflective of other programs in the school that received cuts (such as music), and those who felt that this was the right time for the expenditure and that it might generate money for the district as a better-equipped venue.