David E. Eagan, who is running unopposed for an additional three-year term on the Wainscott School Board, on which he serves as president, has refused to comment on his having been charged with criminal tax fraud, saying everything he had to say was in the introduction to an informational brochure sent to taxpayers about the forthcoming vote on the district’s proposed budget.
Mr. Eagan, a senior partner in the firm Eagan and Matthews, which represents the East Hampton Town Trustees, was appointed to the board in December of 2005 after the death of a prior member. During his arraignment on Feb. 28 in East Hampton Town Justice Court, a state auditor said Mr. Eagan had failed to file New York State personal income tax returns for 2010. He entered a denial to the class E felony, which carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison. Justice Steven Tekulsky released him on his own recognizance, and he is due back in court on June 26.
Repeated attempts by reporters for The East Hampton Star to speak with Mr. Eagan have been rebuffed, and the introduction to the brochure does not mention the charges against him.
Personal legal issues aside, the Wainscott Common School District was criticized after a state audit in December found that its $2.4 million surplus was 68 percent of its current budget and more than 17 times the amount allowed by state law. The audit by the state comptroller’s office showed that the district had consistently over-estimated expenses and under-estimated revenues dating back to 2007.
Following the audit, Mr. Eagan defended the district, saying it had a five-year plan to reduce its surplus and taxes, and he called the state law, which limits the amount of surpluses to no more than 4 percent of a budget, “arbitrary.” He said the law did not work for a small district, where expenses can fluctuate widely from year to year, depending on enrollment.
According to the informational brochure, which is on the school district’s website, the budget for 2014-15 is $3.1 million, a $345,370 decrease from this year. The tax levy is to decrease 10.84 percent, and the tax rate is to go down 11 percent. It continues to be among the lowest tax rates in the districts that send students to East Hampton School District schools.
“The board of trustees has reduced the overall school budget in each of the last three years and has reduced the amount of our tax levy in each of the last two years: in both cases, the reductions represent the largest cumulative school budget decreases on Long Island,” the message reads.
On Tuesday afternoon, voters can cast their ballots from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Wainscott School on Main Street.