By Kathryn Menu
For Bridgehampton School Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, having voters in the district come out to support a $10.6 million school budget during a difficult economic time marked by debates nationwide over public spending is a testament to the commitment the community has for the students of the Bridgehampton School.
“These are difficult times, and it means a lot to know that the community is on our side,” she said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, voters approved the $10.6 million budget for the 2011-2012 school year by an almost two-to-one margin, with 136 residents voting in support of the spending plan and 55 residents voting against it.
The budget increases spending by 5.63 percent, primarily to cover contractual increases of salary, health care and pension costs within the district. Outside of some minor changes, otherwise the budget is nearly identical to the spending plan adopted by residents last year.
The $10,576,714 spending plan will result in a tax rate of $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. A homeowner with a property assessed at $400,000 would pay about $608 in school taxes under this budget.
Dr. Favre noted that after the budget was adopted by the Bridgehampton Union Free School District Board of Education, she and board members reached out to stakeholders in the community, including the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee in an effort “to provide a true picture of the district finances.” They found the school had a lot of support during that process.
“I was not surprised that (the budget) was supported,” said Dr. Favre. “Just pleased that our supporters were not complacent, and came out despite the weather.”
Nearly the same margin of voters who supported the budget opted to support $125,000 in funding for the operation of the Bridgehampton Childcare Center, with 131 residents supporting the expenditure and 57 residents voting against the funding.
Uncontested incumbent school board president Nicki Hemby and member Elizabeth Whelan Kotz easily kept their seats on the board, with Hemby pulling in 149 votes to earn her second term with the board and Kotz earning 133 votes. She will begin her third term on the school board.
Former school board members Joe Berhalter and Joe Conti, who each lost their seats on the board during the last two school board elections, each earned five write-in votes.
While on the board of education, Berhalter and Conti raised the concept of closing the Bridgehampton School’s high school and sending students to neighboring school districts. The debate, in part, led Hemby to run for her first term on school board.