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Mar 31, 2016 12:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bridgehampton School Board Indicates It Will Pierce State Tax Cap

District Superintendent of Finance and Facilities Robert Hauser explains the proposed budget at an earlier board meeting. Press File.
Apr 5, 2016 1:11 PM

Bridgehampton School Board members appear ready to ask voters for permission to pierce the state cap on tax levy increases to avoid cutting staff and programming next year.

The district’s budget proposal for 2016-17 now stands at $13,778,439, which represents a spending increase of $960,094, or 7.49 percent, over the current year’s $12.8 million budget. In order to stay under the cap, the district would still have to cut $670,000 in spending next year, trimming the overall increase to less than $290,000, or 2.25 percent.

The current 2016-17 spending plan is paired with a $12,008,662 tax levy, which is an increase of $1,005,244, or 9.14 percent, over the current year’s roughly $11 million levy. If it were to stay below the cap, the district would have to limit next year’s tax levy increase to $333,729, or 3.03 percent.

To pierce the cap, at least 60 percent of ballots cast by district voters in May must be in favor of the 2016-17 budget.

School Board President Ronald White suggested at last week’s Board of Education meeting that the district should send out those “quirky postcards” to ensure that residents vote on the spending plan. “We have got to really push and make sure that everyone is informed about the ramifications about a non-60-percent approval vote,” he added.

If the budget proposal fails to get the support of at least 60 percent of voters, the board has the option of presenting the same plan a second time, or reducing spending before putting the budget up for a second vote. If the second attempt fails too, the district would be forced to adopt a potentially devastating budget that must contain a zero-percent increase in the tax levy.

In 2014-15, the Bridgehampton School successfully pierced the tax cap with a $12.3 million budget—though it took two tries to achieve. That approved budget represented a spending increase of $1.1 million, or 9.93 percent.

Under the current plan, owners of a home with an assessed value of $500,000 would pay $71.56 more in school property taxes next year, according to district officials. For a $1 million home, the owners would pay approximately $143.11 more in taxes, and those with homes assessed at $250,000 would pay about $35.78 more in taxes.

Members of the board said it seemed that taxpayers who attended a pair of community forums over the past month would be supportive of a decision to pierce the tax cap.

“I think, as a district, we have done everything we could to try to figure out how the district is feeling about this,” Board of Education member Jeffrey Mansfield said. “From what we gathered, the district is behind this—they understand what we are up against.”

Mr. Mansfield acknowledged that only a “small sample size” of the community showed up to those forums, but that they still added to the conversation and offered their input to the board. “They told us that they are behind this,” he said, pointing out that uncontrollable contractual expenses, such as health insurance premium increases, would not even come in below the tax cap for 2016-17.

Bridgehampton is anticipating a $403,700 increase in the cost of employee and retiree health insurance, to about $1.9 million, which is a 26-percent jump over this year’s cost. The health plans for four new teachers are also factored into that number, as well as funds set aside for employees who decide to switch over to the district’s insurance.

“If we don’t pierce the cap, it is going to affect our kids, and that is what it is all about,” Board of Education Vice President Lillian Tyree-Johnson said.

The board will meet again at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, in the school cafeteria before officially adopting the proposed budget.

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Ya know, the PhotoShop "Red Eye Removal Tool" would be indicated in this instance -- and it wouldn't be cheating, only a kindness, not only to the subject of the photo, but 27 East readers.
By Frank Wheeler (1809), Northampton on Mar 31, 16 12:41 PM
Bridgehampton should be focusing on doing a feasiblity study, in association with Sag Harbor School District, on the benefits of merging. Put Sagaponack SD in there as well. There is a base minimum cost for operating a school, and pretty soon every district out here (there are 10 just east of the canal) will be swamped in costs. The piercing of the tax cap is just a symptom, not the cure. Just as Sag Harbor SD should not be looking to purchase Stella Maris buildings, BH SD needs to look at that ...more
By Rickenbacker (252), Southampton on Mar 31, 16 2:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well, if the FD can do it...

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/Bridgehampton/127277/Bridgehampton-Fire-District-Voters-Approve-New-Fire-Truck
By foodwhiner (134), Southampton on Mar 31, 16 3:43 PM
then cut jobs ..
By spruce (8), Riverhead on Mar 31, 16 4:01 PM
cut from the top, a pay and benefit cut for the superintendent and administration to start, next is having the faculty pay for their own health insurance. The kids education should not be impacted in any way.
By bigfresh (4044), north sea on Mar 31, 16 7:12 PM
Anyone who thinks the affordable care act doesn't have dire consequences should re-read this sentence: Bridgehampton is anticipating a $403,700 increase in the cost of employee and retiree health insurance, to about $1.9 million, which is a 26-percent jump over this year’s cost.
By DrewFromNY (1), Bridgehampton on Apr 7, 16 1:45 PM
Is there any word from the district what teaching positions are actually going to be cut?
By whatsfairisfair (2), Hampton Bays on May 3, 16 11:02 AM