Taxpayers in the Bridgehampton Union Free School District will have an opportunity to weigh in on the district’s proposed $9,951,049 spending plan for the 2010-2011 school year next Monday, May 10 at the board of education’s 7 p.m. meeting.
The public hearing on the proposed budget will follow a Meet the Candidates forum, moderated by Sag Harbor Express editor Bryan Boyhan, at 6 p.m. Incumbent board member Joe Berhalter, parent and local farmer Jo Ann Comfort, and parent and local businessman Lawrence LaPointe are vying for two seats on the Bridgehampton School’s board of education and will engage in an hour-long debate on school issues.
Both events will take place in the school’s gymnasium.
According to Bridgehampton School District Interim Business Administrator Dr. George Chesterton, the proposed budget will actually result in a 2.19 percent tax rate decrease for school district taxpayers. The $9,951,049 spending plan was designed to present a budget equal to this year’s $10,012,857 budget, with the remaining $61,808 earmarked in a proposition residents will be asked to approve along with the budget in order to continue the school’s current transportation program.
At a school board meeting last month, Dr. Chesterton explained that the transportation proposition on the May 18 ballot would not add anything to the school’s current transportation program, but allow the district to contract for a single bus – as it does now – and continue its current policy for bussing. The district now provides transportation to public and private school students within a 15-mile radius to the Bridgehampton School. If the proposition does not pass, the district would be forced to adhere to state mandated limits on transportation, which would only allow for bussing for students within a two and three mile radius of the school, depending on the age of the student.
Should the proposition and budget pass, Dr. Chesterton said the district estimates a projected tax rate of $1.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a $0.03 decrease from this year’s tax rate.
Also on this year’s ballot, residents will be asked to approve the cost to construct improvements at the school, including window replacement, the installation of a protective exterior insulation finish system and masonry improvements to the exterior of the historic school building, the replacement of exterior cladding and trim on the kindergarten bay windows, and upgrades for code compliance. The cost is not to exceed $1,350,000 and would have no impact on this year’s tax rate, but would be bonded for over several years.
Taxpayers will also be asked to allow the district to receive reimbursement from the State of New York’s Expanding our Children’s Education and Learning (EXCEL) aid program in the amount of $45,505 and approve $125,000 for the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center’s annual contract with the school district.
Lastly, the community will be asked to choose two members of the board of education. Berhalter hopes to secure his second three-year term on the board, while incumbent Carol Kalish has opted not to seek re-election.
Berhalter, who has lived in the district for six years with his wife Dolores, a native of Bridgehampton, said moving to the hamlet was like coming home. Elected three years ago with former school board member Joe Conti, Berhalter said last month that he no longer wishes to pursue asking voters whether or not to close the district’s high school, but would like to continue to focus on improving education within the district.
A developer of advanced display merchandising, Berhalter has said he was encouraged by fellow board members to seek re-election.
Comfort is the parent of a five-year-old daughter at the Bridgehampton School and has worked on the school’s audit committee as well as the Bridgehampton School Foundation, which she helped found to promote wellness and nutrition within the district through the school’s edible garden – an initiative she said she would like to see expanded within the district.
A resident since 1995, when the East Hampton native met her husband Robert, Comfort is a family farmer at the Babinski-Comfort Farm on Lumber Lane in Bridgehampton.
LaPointe, who runs a landscaping business in Bridgehampton, has had two children graduate from the Bridgehampton School and has a son in the fourth grade there. The 24-year Bridgehampton resident became interested in serving on the school board because of his children’s experience and, in part, through his wife Melanie’s longtime work with the school district, including as secretary of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.
Board elections and budget and referendum voting will take place on Tuesday, May 18 between 2 and 8 p.m. in the Bridgehampton School’s gymnasium.