Jen Wilson attended the East Hampton Town Board’s budget hearing yesterday. It was open to the public, and many voices were heard. Here is what she has to say about it:
“In this very unsettled financial time, we are most likely going to have our local taxes increase as well. This will increase the burden on many families, and there will be many families who will have to take on a second job in order to survive. Builders, realtors, store owners, architects, are just some to name a few who are beginning to feel the pain of this economy. The spending and budgetary mistakes of the East Hampton Town Board should not be passed down to our children.
There are many programs in East Hampton Town that rely on annual money from the Town, and one of the most critical is the East Hampton Daycare Center. The Center operates on an annual budget of approximately $1.4m, the Town contributed $100k in 2008. The Center’s other funds come from parent fees, a small State grant, the County, the Board of Education and volunteer fundraising. While the Town’s budget provides for youth, senior and disabled citizens, the only support available to our youngest citizens is the annual contribution to our Center.
Like other services and individuals, we are facing increased costs and increased pressure on income sources. Our staff has not received salary increases in two years, parent fees were raised and services were cut to keep the programs operating. We have ramped up fundraising and will continue to do so, but it is becoming increasingly clear that our award-winning, excellent and affordable childcare program cannot be sustained without ongoing public support.
Research findings in both education and sociology repeatedly and consistently demonstrate the need for early childhood education. Significantly (in research terms) children who do not receive necessary preparation lag behind their peers throughout their academic careers. Specifically, children need to develop attention span, the ability to follow directions and cooperate. These skills help them learn about their environment outside the home and nurture their curiosity. As well, early learning difficulties can be spotted and corrected before they become entrenched. Funding the East Hampton Day Care Learning Center is a win-win decision whereas not funding it is likely to cost an inestimable amount in social and learning problems.
The Center provides two hot meals and two snacks each day for the children of working parents. Without the Center, many of our local families would not be able to live in East Hampton. Many of those who may face taking a second job will have to rely on the EH Daycare Center more than ever. A rise in property taxes and a simultaneous diminution of child care service will harm our Town in so many ways.
We need to cry out for help from the Town as well as our citizens. We all have a responsibility to help the children of this wonderful small town that we live in!”