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Story - Education

Mar 9, 2010 7:54 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton School Board starts budget deliberations

Mar 9, 2010 7:54 PM

The East Hampton School District released the first part of its proposed $65.4 million school budget last week and will continue to make partial presentations leading up to the final budget presentation in May.

This is the first time the district has presented the budget in stages and it is an effort to provide for more direct input and to make the process less “tedious,” Business Administrator Isabel Madison said.

Ms. Madison presented the first part of the budget to the board and public at the March 2 board meeting and stressed that the numbers presented were not final.

The total proposed budget currently calls for a 4.8-percent increase over this year, but School Board President Sandra Vorphal asked Ms. Madison if she thought it possible to lower that number significantly in the final budget.

“I’d definitely like to bring that down,” Ms. Vorphal said at the meeting. “Under 4.”

“Yes, that’s doable,” Ms. Madison said, jotting down the board’s suggestions to cut funding for SAT preparation classes and Advanced Placement courses, which the board had discussed on February 9. Transferring that cost to parents would save the district about $120,000, Ms. Madison said.

Ms. Madison said she believes that the proposed budget will not affect the tax rate.

“I think it will be 0 or just about there,” she said of any tax increase, but added that it is still “very early” to determine the school tax because it depends on the town’s property assessments and the revenue from districts that send their students to be educated in East Hampton schools, which is not finalized.

Although the Springs School has recently announced it is considering giving its students a choice of high schools other than East Hampton, Ms. Madison said she thought she could still keep the rate the same with fewer students.

The first part of the budget presented focused on general support, debt service and employee benefits. General support, which includes administrators’ salaries, legal fees, operation and maintenance, and Board of Cooperative Educational Services fees, has been penciled in at $7.6 million, a 1.5-percent increase over this year. The general support category includes a 7.5-percent increase for operation and maintenance costs in this year’s budget, from about $4.6 million to almost $5 million, which Ms. Madison said will account for three new custodial positions and equipment needed for the new high school addition and new equipment at all three schools in the district. The biggest variable in the general support category, Ms. Madison said, are the BOCES contracts, which are expected to increase by 37 percent, from about $340,000 to about $465,000. The estimated increases in the general support budget are balanced by a nearly $400,000 decrease in legal fees budgeted for 2010-2011, Ms. Madison said.

The district’s debt service will increase by 10 percent, or more than $500,000, as the district pays off its $79 million bond issue for the capital project. Total employee benefits will cost about $12.4 million, a 10-percent increase, due in part to the 18 employees who have accepted a retirement incentive this year.

The principals of each school building will present their individual budgets at the next board meeting on Tuesday, March 16.

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How can tax rates be held at zero percent increase when assessment values are definitely going down, state aid is going down by 15%, federal stimulus aid is going away and debt service is going up? Is it because the amount of tuition being charged the sending distiricts is going up substantially? The story above almost is an admission that East Hampton School district is going to stick it to the sending districts to make up for all the negative budget related items. The drop in legal fees alone ...more
By hohum123 (91), springs on Mar 23, 10 7:06 AM
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