What fiend burned a dollar sign into the East Hampton football field?
The police would sure like to know. It’s been nearly two weeks after someone burned a dollar sign in the middle of the $1 million synthetic turf field at East Hampton High School in the tony Long Island enclave that’s summer home to the likes of Stephen Spielberg and Sean Combs. That someone also left a five-page note (and sent copies to local newspaper) raging about how the school board wasting tax money on things like, well, a $1 million synthetic turf field.
It would seem a dollar sign would be an appropriate symbol to have on the field, or the team’s helmets, given the town’s reputation. However, East Hampton has finances that would Californians feel sorry for its plight. The city of 21,000 year-round residents had to get state approval to float $15 million worth of bonds to cover 2007 and 2008 deficits, but East Hampton is looking at another $4.1 million in deficits for 2009, not counting the $1.9 million in 2008 money that won’t be covered by the bonds. As a result, the town is talking layoffs.
East Hampton had a foreclosure problem pop up at the beginning of 2008, and certainly the Wall Street bust and the (perhaps temporary) end of the big-bonus era is killing property values. But a state audit also found that the people running East Hampton were running it, all right — into the ground. That’s on top of the school system’s own financial struggles, although the $1 million synthetic turf field in question was approved as part of an $80 million referendum in 2007. Why not just yank up taxes on the wealthy? Because the residents aren’t all wealthy. The 2000 Census put 12 percent of them below the poverty line, and the city also has a sizable illegal immigrant population that helps support the summer residents.
By the way, it’ll cost $100,000 to fix the burnt field.
At this point, there is no list of suspects. There is no one local crank under suspicion. That’s because even in East Hampton, the tax protesters are out, and an afternoon tea is no longer only held in a mansion.