Tag Archive | "budget"

Tax Rate Stays the Same in North Haven

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By Claire Walla


Though North Haven Village had entertained the thought of imposing a minimal tax increase this year, that plan was promptly abandoned.

At a village board meeting last Tuesday, April 3, the board voted unanimously to keep the tax rate the same as it was last year — in fact, board members pointed out, they kept it the same as it’s been for the past five years.

According to figures presented by Village Clerk Georgia Welch, the village is looking at a budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year of $1,326,330. This represents an overall increase over this year’s operating budget of 1.38 percent.

“We’ve been a very responsible board and kept the tax rate the same,” said Mayor Laura Nolan, emphasizing the board voted not to increase taxes despite rising costs and revenues that are down.

While the village’s fire contract is expected to go up by about $9,000 for next year, village assessments have not increased by as much as they had in years past. At $1.47 billion, assessment numbers for the 2012-2013 fiscal year are up about $5.6 million over this year’s value. From 2009 to 2010, however, assessment values increased by about $126 million.

In addition, building permits are down, having fallen from 117 last year to 80 this year. Besides taxes, this is one of the village’s only sources of direct revenue.

To balance the books, the village will take $351,197 from this year’s fund balance — which is expected to total about $700,000 at year end — and apply it to next year’s budget.

While the village had already voted to pierce the two-percent tax levy cap, which was adopted by the state last year and imposed for the first time during the 2012-2013 budget process, it was unnecessary. The village’s tax levy came out just under the two-percent limit.

Sag School Board Approves $34 Million Budget

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By Claire Walla

Pulling no surprises, the Sag Harbor Board of Education voted on Monday, March 26 to approve the district’s proposed $34 million budget for the 2012-2013 school year.

“I want to thank the district for all its hard work,” said board member Chris Tice. Because this is the first year the district has had to make allowances for the state-imposed two-percent tax-levy cap, Tice said the budget process “was particularly rigorous this year.”

Passed by Congress last spring, tax cap legislation has caused most school districts across the state to search for ways of trimming expenditures—Sag Harbor not excluded.

With the rising cost of health insurance and increases for teachers’ retirement plans to contend with, the Sag Harbor School District ended up with a proposed budget up 2.88 percent from this year’s operating budget, which represents only a 1.94 percent tax-levy increase.

According to the district’s budget presentations, Sag Harbor has managed to maintain a budget that keeps all programs in place thanks to significant savings in several key areas.

According to numbers compiled by Dr. Lisa Scheffer, the district’s director of pupil personnel services, the special education department has shed nearly $500,000 in expenses, which is reflected in next year’s budget. The decrease is due to program changes, including the elimination this year of three staff members.

The school has also seen nearly $400,000 in savings from the district business office, as well as $60,000 in savings in transportation. While the budget calls for $500,000 of the district’s fund balance to be put toward energy conservation measures, District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto pointed out that there will be a bond measure tied to the budget vote in May that—if passed—is estimated to generate significant savings for the district.

Proposition #2 would allow the school to purchase six busses at a cost of $575,000. The district estimates that by bringing transportation costs in-house, it will be able to save roughly $170,000 over the next seven years.

However, while the district was able to squeeze the budget beneath the tax cap this year, school board member Walter Wilcoxen expressed some trepidation about the future.

“You’ve taken so much slack out of the budget it’s laudable,” he began. “But, down the road, how are we going to get the big nut? The problem is, I don’t’ see any major change coming. And that creates some discomfort.”

What Wilcoxen was referring to, specifically, were labor negotiations.

According to Verneuille, teachers’ retirement benefits have not yet been quantified for the coming school year, but last year health expenses went up 13.5 percent. And with a two-percent tax levy cap in the mix, expenditures will inevitably outpace revenues. In other words, the school will eventually be forced to look at ways of cutting costs more dramatically.

“You’re absolutely right, the driver of our budget is labor costs,” Dr. Gratto responded. But, he said the situation might not be so grim. Later that evening, the school board voted to approve bus-driver salaries, which had been negotiated down from its 3.5-percent raise this year to a two-percent raise for next year, with no step increases.

“I think what you’re seeing is a trend,” Gratto added.

Though good news, board members seemed to sympathize with Wilcoxen’s less-than-enthusiastic response.

“This is sort of like the fly on the tail of an elephant,” he joked. “But, at least it’s a start.”

The budget vote will be Tuesday, May 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Pierson High School Gym. Should the budget not pass by simple majority, the district would go to its contingency budget, which would strip $551,510 from the proposed budget, which—according to the district—would eliminate the $500,000 set aside for building improvement projects off-the-bat.

No Tax Increase for North Haven

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By Claire Walla


Despite a strong push by the village clerk to increase the tax rate for the coming year, North Haven Village Trustees have ultimately settled on a budget that keeps the tax rate right where it is.

For the Tentative 2012-2013 Budget, which is currently estimated to be $1,327,800, the tax rate will remain at 1.38 percent, making this the fifth year in a row taxes have been stable in the incorporated village.

“I think the tax rate at its current level is sufficient to cover our expenses,” said Trustee Jeff Sander at a budget work session on Tuesday. “The fund balance is healthy enough, and we never want to raise the tax rate if we don’t have to.”

Based on current estimates, Village Clerk Georgia Welch said the village’s fund balance will end up totaling about $600,000 to $700,000 by the end of the fiscal year in June. The final amount will depend on how many improvement projects — like replacing the roof at Village Hall — the village ventures into before then.

The proposed budget calls for using about $352,587 of the village’s current fund balance to cover next year’s expenses.

Though Welch said the village can certainly sustain these costs without raising taxes, she said it’s the future she’s worried about. The village is seeing slight increases in costs — its fire contract is expected to increase by about $9,000 for next year — but, additionally, Welch said the village’s assessments are not as grand as they had been in years past.

While this year’s assessment figure has not yet been finalized, Welch said the most recent number she was given came to $1,472,059,518. Though it’s a $5.7 million increase over last year, previous village assessments had risen by at least three times that amount. And the difference between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 fiscal years was about $126 million.

Welch had proposed three budget scenarios outlining different tax increases so the village would not have to use any of its fund balance to cover expenses. However, Sander explained the village had budgeted very conservatively in the past — over-estimating certain expenses—in order to build-up a healthy fund balance. And he said there’s no danger in using some of those funds this year.

“I’ll acquiesce to whatever you want, but I don’t think it’s going to look good two years down the line,” Welch continued. “Mortgage tax and building permits are our main revenue sources, and they have decreased quite a bit in the last six years.”

Building permits have dropped from 117 last year to 80 this year.

“I’m just hoping that the assessments won’t change any more,” Welch concluded.

She said she’ll have the final figures from the town before the village’s public hearing on the budget, Tuesday, April 3.

Sander added, “And I hope we have a good year with building permits.”

Board Aims to Solidify School Mascot

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Yearbook Photo, whale

By Claire Walla


Your perception of the Pierson Middle/High School mascot is probably correlated to the amount of time you’ve spent with the school.

“The whale has always been the mascot,” said school board member Teresa Samot, who grew up in Sag Harbor.

She added, however, that the school has seen a lot of variations over the years, and many uniforms don’t have a mascot at all. Recently, this prompted athletic director Monty Granger to question what the school’s rallying symbol was at all.

The Pierson mascot has been discussed before, but now the school district has expressed interest in deciding, once and for all, what exactly this symbol will be.

According to Samot, not only is the mascot a whale, it’s a very specific whale.

“Many alumni have made it clear that it’s not a whale standing on its tail, or a whale dancing,” she began. “It’s that whale!” she said, making reference to the whale depicted on the wall of the Pierson Middle/High School gym.

Board members Chris Tice and Mary Anne Miller expressed an interest in deciding on the mascot quickly in order to solidify the Pierson “brand.”

“We’re losing fundraising opportunities,” Miller said.

By licensing a specific mascot, the school could use that image on stationary, pens and other Pierson products, including t-shirts and sweatshirts.

“What I’m concerned about, is the whale you use,” said Pierson High School student Amanda Gleeson. “It should be something that we can actually be proud of visually.”

She added that she felt the board should choose mascot options, and then leave the final decision-making process to a student vote.

“We’re really looking for something really simple that we can just put on a t-shirt,” Monty Granger said. And then, invoking the words of Herman Melville, he added: “We may never find the white whale, but we may find one that we think reflects the history and tradition [of Sag Harbor] through time, but is also palatable to students.”

The board is expected to revisit the issue at its next meeting, March 26.


In other news…


What do draw bridges, pine needles and chickens named “Retro” have in common?

All were featured at last Monday’s Sag Harbor School District meeting when students from Kryn Olson’s Elementary School fifth grade science class presented three different science fair projects to the board of education.

According to science fair participant Phoebe Miller, science projects “first start out with an inspiration.”

Standing next to her science fair partner Gabriela Knab and a wooden model of a bridge, she continued: “Ours was the Mystic Drawbridge.”

The girls hypothesized that a drawbridge would not be able to lift without a counter weight. And after experimenting with different weights on the wooden model they constructed, their hypothesis was proven correct.

Student Daniel Capurso focused his project on pine needles, paper scraps and cardboard in order to “make heat from garbage.” Using a plastic cylinder and CDs to shmush the paper refuse into compact circles, he said, “My hypothesis was correct, the paper discs [conducted] more heat” than regular trash.

Finally, standing before one of their scientific subjects, Retro the chicken, Reilly Rose Schombs and Caroline Jungck said that their hypothesis revolved around the correlation between diet and egg quality. After feeding their poultry a new combination of cantaloupe, tomatoes, apples and pears and testing their results, they did indeed prove that the color of the chickens’ egg yolks grew darker as a result of a diet rich with fruit.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone related the importance of science at the elementary school level to the growing interest in the Intel science projects at the high school level.

“By focusing on science in the elementary school,” he said, “we can focus on some of the things that are to come.”


Budget Update


The proposed 2012-2013 school district budget — currently set at $34,182,256, representing a 2.88 percent spending increase over this year’s operating budget — plans to appropriate $500,000 from the fund balance to be used for energy efficiency upgrades. However, school board member Ed Drohan cautioned the district against dipping into these funds.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, are we going to pay the price next year?” he asked. “Are we mortgaging the future?”

While the district is going to see some savings from cost-cutting measures taken in the business and special education departments, Drohan pointed out that these will probably be one-time savings.

Instead of dipping into the fund balance to pay for building upgrades, he said the district should think instead of cutting costs elsewhere.

“I think it’s time we approach the [teachers’] union and come to some sort of compromise,” Drohan said.

He noted that the Bridgehampton School District recently managed to negotiate a district-wide freeze on all teachers’ salaries for the 2012-2013 school year. Although District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto didn’t seem very optimistic that situation could be mirrored here in Sag Harbor.

“I have talked to the teachers about concessions and we didn’t reach an agreement,” he responded.

The school board was expected to make its final decision to approve the proposed budget this week. But, according to Dr. Gratto, the state is still “tweaking” some of the finer points of its two-percent tax cap legislation.

The proposed budget currently includes a 1.94 percent tax levy increase, just shy of the two-percent limit. Any modifications to the legislation have the potential to change this calculation, perhaps bringing that total even closer to the two-percent limit.

“We wanted to hold off for that reason,” Dr. Gratto added.

But, because the budget must officially be adopted before the end of the month, he said the board will have no other choice but to vote on the budget at its next meeting, March 26.


The debate over student accident insurance continues

School board members said at a meeting this week that they were reluctant to make a decision as to whether or not the school should carry a supplemental insurance policy until they find out more information, including exactly how many neighboring districts hold such a policy.

Currently, the district does not have student accident insurance; it was canceled last spring when board members agreed that, overall, the insurance plan was not giving parents an adequate financial return on their medical bills.

As a supplement to the school’s liability insurance, this type of coverage relates to injuries that are not determined to be related to negligence on the part of the school. (For example, if a child should get injured in a sports game.)

The board is divided on the need for such a program. While some board members feel the school has an obligation to cover all student injuries, others feel the current options before them are not sufficient.

“I’m actually in favor of a parent-pay plan,” said board president Mary Anne Miller, who pointed out that the school offers insurance to parents at a much lower rate: from around $20 to $245 for the year with no deductible, versus a $250 deductible for student accident insurance.

“It’s less money out of the parents’ pockets.”

Fuel Costs Increase Budget for Buildings and Grounds

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By Claire Walla

Sag Harbor School District Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Montgomery “Monty” Granger didn’t just talk numbers when he presented his budget last Monday, December 12. He showed pictures.

As part of his slideshow presentation, Granger took Sag Harbor School Board members inside the Wyandanch School District where, through the school’s virtual building management system, he was able to display a map of the school grounds, which showed various temperatures corresponding to each room within the school building — in real time.

Granger said he hopes to bring a similar system to the Sag Harbor School District.

This was the focal point of his presentation on the 2012-2013 budget for buildings and maintenance, which as of now is predicted to see a $99,586 jump over this year’s budget. While buildings and grounds only accounts for about six percent of the school’s overall operating budget, Granger said often times the cost of energy is the most expensive part of this portion of the budget.

To further illustrate his point, Granger told the board that the district’s total energy costs for the 2010-2011 school year totaled $370,467. And based on estimates put out by the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA), Granger said this is bound to go up by 2012-2013.

Fuel oil alone is projected to see a 28-percent jump, while natural gas costs are estimated to rise 13 percent and electricity costs are expected to be up by five percent.

According to Granger, the cost of implementing a building management system with Direct Digital Controls (DDC) would be about $500,000; however, he said the new virtual system could bring savings on energy costs anywhere from 25 to 50 percent.

This figure is imprecise, Granger admitted, because he’s unsure of how much energy the school is currently wasting.

“We currently have limited or no control over the heating of the buildings, and we have no benchmark for expenditures,” Granger wrote in one of his slides.

The program, Granger argued, would make regulating temperatures much easier and more efficient because he or one of the schools’ head custodians could monitor temperatures for the entire building remotely. Plus, Granger added, the program makes it possible to pre-plan heat regulation, essentially scheduling low temperatures during holidays when no one is using the building, even making temperatures low in certain segments of the building that may not be used as frequently as others.

Other cost increases for next year are tied to several expenditures Granger has built into the next school year: purchasing a lift, equipment replacement, new high school lockers, new boiler burners, purchasing a sod cutter, replacing doors and installing new wall padding in the Sag Harbor Elementary School gym.

“I have a significant increase in next year’s budget,” Granger explained. “But, I have some significant needs.”

As far as athletics are concerned, Granger — who also acts as the school district’s Athletic Director — said next year’s proposed budget will be kept relatively flat, only going up by about $22,000.

“We are proposing the same number of teams as we currently have,” explained school superintendent Dr. John Gratto.

According to Granger’s presentation, the school district currently fields 50 teams, with most student athletes participating in fall sports — 245 students, versus 170 in the winter and 146 in the spring. And Granger noted that the number of female athletes is greater than the number of males in both the fall (by 25) and the winter (by 30), while the boys outnumber the girls 86 to 60 in the spring.

Though nothing is set to change for next year, Dr. Gratto added that it’s still early and the impending threat of the two-percent tax cap could rock the boat.

“This is certainly going to be a tight budget year,” he added.

Cops and Trustees’ Last-Minute Budget Talks

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by Claire Walla

Perhaps no department in the town of Southampton has been as fiercely scrutinized during this year’s budget process as the Southampton Town Police Department. Though it’s still unknown how deep into the red the department’s overtime budget will be before the end of this fiscal year, it’s already seen a deficit in overtime spending that’s topped $250,000.

What’s more, Southampton Town Police Chief Bill Wilkinson has been tasked with streamlining the department, reducing current staffing levels from 96 to 90 officers.

While he’s been charged with finding a solution for his department’s current deficit, he also faces some backlash to his proposed plan to trim his department — which, he argues, would help alleviate the issues with the current deficit. The chief’s plan hinges on introducing new technology into the force.

“The technology program is critical,” Wilkinson told Southampton Town Board members at a town hall work session on Tuesday, November 15. “We’re looking to streamline and flatten out the command structure [of the police department] — that’s dependent on having the technology project.”

According to Wilkinson’s estimates, a standard Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) arrest typically requires officers to take roughly four to five hours to process the paperwork associated with it. With the proposed technology project — an automated system that would cut down on the amount of paper work and data entry officers are now responsible for — he said the time it takes to process a DWI would be cut in half.

Among town board members, there seemed to be few arguments with the benefits of the program. However, Councilman Jim Malone said he wondered whether the project, at roughly $700,000, would be too expensive to implement in this economic climate.

“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “With the state of economics being what they are, we’re trying to get by year to year… [The technology project] is an investment, but it carries a cost.”

For Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the decision of whether or not to invest in new technology is not a simple matter deciding whether or not to pay for a $700,000 project. “The balancing act is: do we invest in the technology, or do we invest in more police officers?” she asked rhetorically.

Because if the town decides not to invest in the new technology, she pointed out that the police force would be short-staffed and would not be able to function adequately — without dipping into its overtime funds.


TRUSTEES


After several meetings with town board members regarding their proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year, the Southampton Town Trustees finally seemed to come to an understanding with the board regarding how much money each entity is willing to spend to keep the trustees in operation.

The trustees’ ultimately requested permission to put up a bond measure for $250,000 that would be met with a financial contribution from the town of $150,000.

This money would be put toward a series of four projects that trustees said are of high priority. The first and most important project would be to build a new structure to replace the existing storage facility on Jackson Avenue in Hampton Bays ($275,000). Additionally, the trustees need $15,000 to fix the Wooley Pond bulkhead, $200,000 for the Old Fort Pond dock, and $200,000 for the Baycrest Avenue dock

While Councilman Jim Malone noted that the total cost of these projects comes out to $690,000 and the trustees are asking for $400,000 in funds, Trustee Eric Schultz noted that the trustees would simply get through as many projects as they could before their funding ran out.

“I support the bonding,” Malone finally commented.

Additionally, the trustees asked to keep the services of attorney Joe Lombardo, who they said is well-versed in patent law and was instrumental in helping the trustees successfully defend their rights against implementing a saltwater fishing license in the town of Southampton. His has been written out of the supervisor’s tentative budget.

“If you decide not to keep him,” Schultz added, “We request that we have someone with the same amount of time dedicated to us.”

Finally, the trustees argued that they needed the services of a marine maintenance supervisor. The position is currently vacant due to retirement. And in order to save costs, the trustees proposed a 50/50 deal, in which they would pay half of this person’s salary, which they estimated would total $75,000.

Southampton: Top Cop Aims To Trim Operations

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By Claire Walla


Southampton Town Police Chief Bill Wilson admitted last Friday, November 4 that his department has, in fact, spent $225,000 more than its allotted overtime funds due primarily to changes in the department that he implemented when he took office last May.

However, he said, those costs don’t represent the full story.

Though the overtime budget is currently in the red, Chief Wilson said he has a vision for the department that will not only solve the overtime dilemma, but will bring more financial stability for the police department for the years to come.

“I think we can agree that the Southampton Town Police Department, operationally, has been on an austerity budget for quite some time,” Wilson began. “In looking at the long-term health and longevity of the police department over the next 20 years, I was tasked with finding significant savings [when appointed as police chief ].”

For fiscal year 2012, that total is $1.5 million, which is currently built into the supervisor’s Preliminary Budget. That cost savings is laid-out in a plan to trim the police department by eight members, using a stipulation in all officers’ contracts with the town that allows town officials to force officers who have reached 20 years of service into retirement. (Under Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s plan, officers who have 25 years of service or more will be affected.)

While Southampton Town Comptroller Tamara Wright recently said this formula has been complicated by the fact that fire service has now been thrown into the mix of what constitutes an officers’ employment with the town — the number of officers now eligible for retirement has risen to 12 — the chief maintains that trimming his staff in this way is the most effective for the department.

“There has been some concern with the department’s ability to operate with a certain amount of ‘brain drain,’” he said, referring to the fact that those forced into retirement would be the town’s senior officers with the most experience.

“We have talented people in those positions,” he continued, “But we have talented people waiting to fill those positions. So, at no time would public safety be jeopardized.”

He went on to explain that part of his reorganization would be removing superior officers from positions that he said could easily be “civilianized.” Wilson said that the lieutenant currently responsible for the office of emergency management — “an expert in the field” — has agreed to come back to the department after his retirement next August on a part-time or consultant basis in order to train a “civilian” to do the job.

Similarly, the chief said that a current sergeant interested in taking the town’s retirement incentive has agreed to come back to the department to work in an administrative, civilian position.

“In doing so, that would allow me to be able to flatten out the current command structure,” Wilson commented.

His goal, as he has explained it, is to get more uniformed officers out of the office and onto the streets.

In speaking to the longevity of the department, Wilson also told town board members that he hopes to make better use of technology to streamline procedures within the department that, as of now, are “archaic.” After adding that he has been asked to trim current staffing levels down to 90 (he said there were 96 when he first took command), operations will have to be streamlined.

That cannot be done “without the automization of a substantial amount of the services we perform — filling out paperwork, records management, processing evidence,” he added.

In one sense, Wilson continued, overtime numbers increase “because of the amount of uncommitted officer time — there is a report generated for every single thing that we do.”

But cutting back on those reports is not an option.

“One of the primary purposes of law enforcement is documentation,” Wilson said. “It’s just the way that the documentation is done that takes up time.”

The board went into executive session to discuss the finer details of Wilson’s plan regarding which specific staff members he proposes moving to higher positions to fill the spots of those expected to take retirement or be forced into retirement. However, though the board discussed Wilson’s plan for reorganizing his staff, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst noted that she would be continuing discussion with the department’s two main unions: the Superior Officers’ Association (SOA) and the Police (PBA).

Should an agreement be reached or should the board decide not to force officers into retirement, Wilson noted that it would affect his carefully mapped out plan for a reorganization that would result in $1.5 million in savings.

Pointing to the fact that the new measurement for retirement eligibility at 25 years now includes 12 officers instead of eight, Councilman Jim Malone said that decreasing the department by 12 officers “is not sustainable,” adding that that would mark a drop-off of nearly 50 percent.

As discussions continue about the future of the town’s police department, Malone said he wanted to see more options than the what’s currently laid-out in the Preliminary Budget (retiring those who have accumulated 25 years of service).

“While it’s a viable choice, the choice of one is not really a choice in my mind,” he said. “There’s got to be a contingency plan.”

Voters Approve $10.6 Million Budget at Bridgehampton

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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.

Sag Harbor Passes Budget / Elects Miller, Samot and Kruel

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web_Sag Harbor School Board Elections '11_2521

The Sag Harbor School District’s proposed $33.2 million budget was passed by taxpayers Tuesday, May 17 with a final tally of 917 to 698.

“I’m pleased for the community,” District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto said after the results were read to the crowd gathered within the Pierson gym. The budget—which represents a 5.48 percent increase over this year’s $31.5 million operating budget—includes $75,000 for a new playground at the elementary school, and $180,000 for a universal Pre-K program.

Incumbent school board members Mary Anne Miller and Theresa Samot secured their seats on the seven-member board with the highest number of votes at 1,065 and 1,053. While former two-time board member Sandi Kruel nabbed the last vacant spot with 886 votes, just 85 more than challenger Annette Bierfriend.

Though this year’s budget seemed to pass without much of a kerfuffle, Dr. Gratto did note that voting numbers were down this year.

According to District Secretary Mary Adamczyk, as of Tuesday night this year’s total is nearly 500 voters short of last year’s count of 2,097.

Hearing on Bridgehampton’s $10.6 Million Budget Next Week

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Residents of the Bridgehampton Union Free School District will have the opportunity to weigh in on a $10.6 million proposed budget next week — a budget that increases spending by 5.63 percent, but that will add no new programs in the district.

According to the proposed budget, the 5.63 percent increase in spending will cover a $564,824 increase in contractual expenses, and nothing more. Otherwise, according to school district superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, the spending plan is basically identical to last year’s voter-approved budget.

The $10,576,714 proposed budget will result in a tax rate of $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning a homeowner in the district with a house valued at $400,000 would pay about $608 in school taxes.

“Simply put, it funds this year’s expenses, and some technology updates and repairs,” said Dr. Favre, adding the budget is basically a rollover budget from last year.

“With some savings in a few areas realized, we were able to put repairs and technology deemed important into the 2011-2012 plan,” she said.

The district has entered into a five-year plan through Eastern Suffolk BOCES that will allow the school to update classroom computers that no longer are covered under warranty plans and repair newer computers. Future upgrades to technology in the district, said Dr. Favre, will occur over the course of the next four budget years.

That funding was enabled through the district reducing transportation to Eastern Suffolk BOCES by two bus trips, saving the school district about $100,000.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on Tuesday, May 10 at 7 p.m. and a budget newsletter, sent to all district residents, is also available on the school’s website.

The district budget vote and school board election will take place on May 17.

In addition to the budget vote, on May 16, residents will be able to vote for two members of the Bridgehampton School’s Board of Education, although pending a successful write-in campaign, that race is uncontested.

School board president Nicki Hemby will seek her second term on the board, and former school board president Elizabeth Kotz is hoping for her third term with the board.