By Amanda Wyatt
The Sag Harbor Board of Education continued its series of budget forums on Monday evening, breaking down the preliminary numbers for next year’s transportation, debt service, technology and Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) budgets.
School Business Administrator John O’Keefe presented the district’s tentative transportation budget for next year, which amounts to $768,692. This is down 28.7 percent or $309,286 from 2012-2013’s $1,077,978 budget.
The dramatic reduction can be attributed to a number of factors, particularly a decreased need for contractual transportation now that the district is operating its own school buses. O’Keefe also mentioned that since the beginning of this school year, the district has been saving money by purchasing gasoline through an inter-municipal agreement with the Southampton School District, rather than buying it at a local gas station.
O’Keefe provided the board with an update on the school district’s debt service, which he described as “how we pay for bonds that the district has issued in the past.”
He explained since the district does not receive monies from taxpayers until after the school year has started, it must borrow funds every year in order to operate. This past September, the district borrowed roughly $10 million, which is due back to the lender in June. The tax anticipation note (TAN) interest for the borrowed money for last year was $125,000, and it will remain flat for next year, said O’Keefe.
The district tentatively plans on transferring $5,000 to the school lunch fund, which is the same amount it transferred last year.
In addition, there is a proposed transfer of $1,445,830 to the school’s debt service fund, which is down just 0.46 percent from last year’s transfer of $1,452,450. This figure, O’Keefe explained, is the principal in interest the district pays each year on its outstanding bonds. He added that the district currently has roughly $10.5 million outstanding in bonds.
Scott Fisher, director of technology, was also on hand to present his department’s budget for next year. He proposed $515,593, which is slight increase — 0.76 percent or $3,873 — from last year’s $511,720 budget.
Fisher also noted that this year, the school would be entering the second year of a four-year cycle of computer replacement.
But, he added, “It’s really a permanent cycle for replacing all of the computers…Hopefully, this is an ongoing effort so that every year we’re replacing about one fourth of all the student and teacher computers.”
Dr. Lisa Scheffer, director of PPS, detailed the proposed costs for her department in 2013-2014. The budget for students with disabilities would be $1,497,350, which is a $176,450 increase from last year’s $1,320,900 budget.
Included in this category is a proposed $35,000 in funds for the Sag Harbor Coalition, an anti-drug and alcohol group that involves members of the school and the wider community. While the coalition is not specifically related to students with disabilities, there is some overlap in terms of counselors and other personnel that could be used for both PPS and the Coalition.
“We decided as a group that we wanted to put forth some district funds to get programs up and running for next school year,” said Dr. Scheffer, who co-leads the coalition.
In addition, Dr. Scheffer said that the PPS budget for equipment, supplies and textbooks would be $25,326 — just a $281 increase from last year’s budget. Social work and psychological supplies would cost $4,040, which is $2,560 less than last year’s $6,600 budget.
The next budget workshop will be held on March 6.