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Mar 31, 2015 2:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays School Board Looks At Moderate Increase In Spending

Apr 1, 2015 1:14 PM

Roughly two weeks away from adopting a budget, the Hampton Bays Board of Education is looking at a spending plan that comes in just shy of $49 million for the 2015-16 school year.

The $48.9 proposal, if adopted as is, would increase overall spending by $763,175, or about 1.6 percent, next year, but would still come in under the state’s tax cap on tax levy increases. The current year’s budget totals approximately $48.2 million.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature reached a tentative agreement on a $142 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year on Sunday, and that budget is expected to be voted through and signed into law later this week. The state budget provides $1.4 billion for school aid, but it is unclear how that will be allocated, because, unlike years past, the state has not provided districts with budget runs detailing approximate funding.

Hampton Bays Business Administrator Larry Luce said during a budget workshop last month that his district has assembled its spending plan with a predicted $104,000 increase in state aid, which he described as moderate. For the current school year, Hampton Bays has received $4.9 million in funding from Albany.

The tentative budget would allow the district to keep its current services while paying for new expenses, such as providing additional support for the district’s residency investigations—wherein employees check to see that students live at their given addresses—or transitioning the district’s 67 athletic teams’ jerseys from purple and black back to purple and white.

The budget also would cover new technology expenses including the addition of new software, hardware and a part-time network technician who would be paid $25,000 a year.

Hampton Bays Superintendent Lars Clemensen described the plan as being the “Honda Accord of budgets,” pointing to its lack of frills. “We’d all love a Cadillac, and a Cadillac is great, but the 2015 Honda is a good car,” Mr. Clemensen said during a budget workshop on March 19. “It’s a good car, it’s reliable and it’s going to accomplish everything you want it to.”

Hampton Bays could be poised to receive greater funding than anticipated as the state budget includes $300 million more than the governor had said he was originally wiling to agree to set aside. Mr. Clemensen said Monday that he still hadn’t gotten word from Albany about how much additional funding that would equate to for his district, though he expected to know that figure by early next week.

While it would be tempting to use the additional funding to offer residents a tax break, Mr. Luce said during the same March 19 meeting that the Board of Education would be wise to budget to the cap, regardless of the amount of state aid secured, and use the surplus to pay down debts faster.

Mr. Luce explained that there is an inherent disadvantage to not budgeting to the cap, because what a district sets aside one year impacts what it can budget for the following year; meaning, if a district budgets $200,000 less than the cap in 2015, its cap the following year would be $200,000 lower than it could have been in 2016. In essence, if they don’t use it, they lose it.

Hampton Bays School Board President Chris Garvey said he supported the idea of using a possible surplus to help pay down debt more quickly.

“The important thing is that if you need the money down the road, you haven’t painted yourself into a corner,” Mr. Garvey said. “The taxpayers are still getting their money back because we’re putting it toward debt services, it’s that simple.”

The Board of Education expects to adopt its 2015-16 by Tuesday, April 14; the deadline for all districts to adopt their respective spending plans is Friday, April 24. The budget will be put up for a public vote on Super Tuesday, May 19.

District Looks To
Refinance Bonds

During its meeting last week, the Hampton Bay Board of Education voted to refinance the remaining $35 million of the bond it issued in 2006 to pay for building and grounds improvements.

The district issued a 30-year, roughly $44 million bond in 2006 at an interest rate of 4.25 percent. The bond is on track to be paid off five years early, but Mr. Luce said if the school district refinances at today’s lower interest rate, it could save about $200,000 a year in savings on interest payments, which would account for between $3 million and $4 million in overall savings.

Mr. Luce said the district’s financial advisers at Great Neck-based Capital Markets would sell off the debt to large corporations and repay them at the lower interest rate.

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"We’d all love a Cadillac" the guy says. What an outrage. For what we are getting in terms of academic outcomes, the citizens are paying for a Cadillac and getting a Yugo. I thought the last election cycle set the tone that the people are fed up with their earnings being expropriated and wasted.

Most people don't even look at how their property taxes are being spent. When I look at mine, I see that this year I'm paying over $40,000 for the school and the library. I have never sent ...more
By SHPredatorDept (72), Southampton on Apr 2, 15 10:58 AM
1 member liked this comment
They just keep raising taxes for higher salaries, and no accountability.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 2, 15 8:10 PM
It is an outrage. But don't blame the superintendent. Blame the School Board who has never looked at the horrendous academic scores for Hampton Bays. Ask the question...when has the School Board given back a penny to the residents of Hampton Bays? We are getting almost a 10% in state aid change...equaling $437.289 (Newsday confirms this amount) Its always the easy political answer...just like Obama...pay down the debt. But Hampton Bays residents should all demand to get every penny back! ...more
By Andy01 (1), Hampton Bays on Apr 3, 15 10:31 AM
They're using the surplus to buy new uniforms for 67 teams because they don't like the color !!?? HBays has highest school tax in the town and these idiots just don't get it. This is what happens when you have a 25 year old superintendent with no PHD and no experience.
A superintendent, 2 assistant supers, a business administrator, I don't know how many "directors" of everything, 3 principals plus asst principals, tennis courts, new astroturf for 6 games they just keep spending
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Apr 6, 15 8:21 AM
Look at the credentials of the school board, and you will see the blind are leading the blind at the HB District. They spend money like water at HB. But remember " It's all for the students" ha ha
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Apr 6, 15 1:24 PM
The solution is very simple. Vote NO on the school budgets and elect people to the board who actually know the value of a dollar and who understand the money they're spending isn't theirs to spend. Wake up folks. This is your fault. Mr Luce isn't trying to hide anything. He plainly states his plan is to raise taxes the maximum amount every year. Get off your lazy behinds on school budget voting day and vote NO!!!
By bird (829), Southampton on Apr 7, 15 7:48 PM
The logic used by the school board led by Mr Garvey, Lars, and Mr.Luce are using same logic they used when they borrowed $16 million recently. The intrest rates went down so when the $8 million dollar loan was paid off they borrowed twice as much rather than borrow what was needed. The last thing any government funded agency ever wants to do is lower their budget to reduce taxes because that means they may not be able to get more money next year. The purpose of the tax cap was to try and get schools ...more
By Ernie (88), Hampton Bays on Apr 10, 15 11:08 AM
2 members liked this comment