Categorized | Page 1, Schools

Sag Harbor School Board Commits to $33 Million Budget

Posted on 30 March 2011

By Claire Walla

On Monday, March 28 the Sag Harbor School Board adopted a $33.2 million budget, a 5.48 percent spending increase over this year’s $31.5 million operating budget. All board members present voted in favor of the budget, with the exception of Ed Drohan, who was not present at the meeting.

Given these numbers, the projected tax rate increase is 5.85 percent for residents on the East Hampton side of the village, and 6.07 percent for those in Southampton. In other words, for a home in Southampton valued at $1 million, the total annual tax increase would come out to about $284.08, and in East Hampton that number would be $256.19.

Sag Harbor School District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto noted, however, the district won’t know the assessed value of properties until August when the numbers are officially unveiled.

The largest spike in district costs comes from the instruction end, which will total $1.2 million for salaries and benefits alone for the 2011-12 school year. Sag Harbor School District Business Manager Janet Verneuille added that both health care and pension costs went up this year by double digits.

Other major cost increases come from plans to improve school facilities. The district has injected $701,723 into next year’s budget for improvement projects including a playground at the elementary school (which is expected to cost about $150,000 — though half of this cost will come from funds the elementary school has set aside using money earned through its SHAEP program), as well as a Pre-K program and energy conservation measures.

Dr. Gratto explained that the district intends to spend about $387,150 for installing motion detectors and retrofitting the schools’ light fixtures, a project that would generate savings of about $33,000 annually and earn the district a $37,875 rebate the first year.

“We would break even after about 13 years, or so,” he added.
There is also about $118,000 set aside for health and safety items as basic as replacing guardrails at the elementary school; altering heating, venting and air-conditioning units; and replacing doors at both the elementary and middle/high school.

Off-setting these cost increases, however, Verneuille is quick to point out that the school did see some cost-saving measures this year (about $258,069) due to the purchase of school buses. In addition to saving on contractual fees, the district was able to charge other school districts to use school buses for sporting events.

The school also expects to see an increase in the number of out-of-district students next year. While total enrollment is projected at 946, with only 14 tuition-paying students expected at this point, both Dr. Gratto and Verneuille said they expect those numbers to climb.

A proposition will also be on the ballot to establish a reserve fund: “Facilities Renovation Capital Reserve Fund,” which would finance energy conservation measures and other facility repairs. According to Verneuille, the district would not be able to put more than $500,000 into the fund in a given year, and the fund’s total would not be able to exceed $5 million.

“We expect that we’re going to have extra money because of the teachers’ retirements,” said Verneuille explaining that new teachers taking over those positions will come in at lower salaries. So, if this fund were established, she added, “we could put some away at the end of this year.”

The benefit to establishing this fund, she continued, is that when the district goes to bond, it doesn’t have to ask as much from the community.

The budget will be put up for a public vote on Tuesday, May 17. Should a majority of voters vote against the proposed budget, either another vote will be held June 14, or the district will go to a contingency budget, which by law would only allow this year’s adopted budget to increase by $603,286 over last year.

Dr. Gratto noted that he will be speaking about the budget on Tuesday, May 10 at the Noyac Civic Council; Wednesday, May 11 at the PTSA meeting; and Thursday, May 12 at the PTA meeting. He added that he or Verneuille will also be available to give budget presentations, should any organization be interested in learning more.

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4 Responses to “Sag Harbor School Board Commits to $33 Million Budget”

  1. John Feltman says:

    Salaries and Benefits,well, that should be no surprise to anyone. What about spending more money on the education of our children,instead of the egregious and excessive contributions being made to Teacher’s Pension Funds. It’s all about greed, corruption,ignorance and incompetence.When Sheldon Silver started his ‘Mandated Contributions to Teacher’s Pension Funds’campaign in 1994 (Taxpayer’s money for votes),He started the climb to eventual bankruptcy for Long Island. Sag Harbor is a little better off financially than most Towns and villiages,but it will not save them from what’s coming. Long Island stands on the edge of financial bankruptcy, because not one of our political representatives had the courage or competence to do the right thing for Long Islaners.They just took theirs and cowered in the Shadow of Sheldon Silver,Speaker of the Assembly who carries a very big stick. They have abdicated their responsibility to taxpayers and allowed the inevitable result of criminal mismanagement,greed and incompetence to take its toll,a Long Island where the middle-class can no longer afford to live. Silver’s concept of taxpayer money for votes,has never reached the point of critical mass and never will,because the money resource, Real-Estate taxes, is about to implode as a result of rapidly sinking Home values which are about to sink farther as foreclosures increase dramatically.
    NY state has lost 10% of its population in the last 10 years and will lose another 10% in the next 5. Long Island is about to face a severe downgrading of its quality of life. Many,too many, of its good,hardworking middle class,Seniors,and others of lesser means who derserve better, will not survive the economic and financial stresses that are about to get worse on Long Island and throughout this nation.

  2. Taxpayer says:

    For Southampton residents in Sag Harbor district:

    This is a 20.54% increase in 2 years! RIdiculous, vote no!

    And since the assessments aren’t final, the increase could conceivably be more. Who among us has seen their income increase by anything approaching 20% over the past 2 years (let alone stay constant)? Why is Sag Harbor spending more per pupil than Ross School tuition? Why is their no movement to temporarily freeze salaries and raise health insurance contributions as has happened in other districts?

    (12.76% 2010-11 and 6.07% 2011-12, or compounded, 1.1276 x 1.0607 = 1.2054,
    i.e. 20.54% increase)

  3. noyac nellie says:

    This district is on the path of many of its western Suffolk counterparts. Are you guys kidding? Or is it “lets make those rich city folk pay?” How about us poor locals with over-assessed properties?

  4. think ahead and be accountable says:

    The School board granted the teachers a contract that they knew was not sustainable unless taxes are raised to pay the salaries, benefits, and pensions. Ditto to above comment: Why is their no movement to temporarily freeze salaries and raise health insurance contributions as has happened in other districts?

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