By Tessa Raebeck
Unlike budgets proposed in East Hampton and Bridgehampton, the Sag Harbor School District’s proposed 2014-15 budget does not pierce the state-mandated tax cap.
In a second presentation of the full budget on Monday, administrators proposed spending of $36.87 million, an increase of $1.36 million or 3.83 percent over the 2013-14 budget.
The tax cap, established by the state in 2011, prohibits school districts from raising property taxes by more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year, that cap has been set at the rate of inflation, 1.51 percent. The district budget calls for a tax levy increase of 1.48 percent, which is just below the cap.
The budget nearly doubles, to $75,500, the amount set aside for “public information” and postage. Only $38,505 was set aside for that purpose in the current fiscal year.
That increase is in part due to $30,000 being earmarked for improving online communications, whether by expanding the role of the public relations firm Syntax Communications or hiring an in-house webmaster responsible for managing the website, social media and other online tools.
A survey of over 600 students, parents and staff conducted by the district’s Communications Committee found that all parties preferred getting communications online, but the website and other portals were lacking information, disorganized and not regularly updated.
Technology spending increases by 20 percent under the proposed budget. The $95,009 would fund an ongoing initiative to replace computers and Smart Boards, upgrading the wireless network and for the purchase of iPads, Google Chromebooks and MacBooks for classroom use.
An increase of $4,000 is budgeted for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters mentoring program, recently reinstated by the national organization.
Addressing the need for increased math instruction required under the state’s Common Core Learning Standards—as well as the difficulty many students and parents have had with the new math standards—the district is considering adding a math lab. The budget draft includes $40,000 to hire a teacher who would work 60 percent of full time, to supplement a full-time staff member in the lab. “So that way the lab has a teacher all the time,” School Business Administrator John O’Keefe said Tuesday.
The board will vote on the budget at its April 23 meeting. The community budget vote and school board elections are Tuesday, May 20, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Pierson gymnasium. Applications to run for school board can be found in the district clerk’s office and must be submitted by Monday, April 21, at 5 p.m.