By Tessa Raebeck
In the first budget workshop of the school year, the Sag Harbor School District outlined its projected 2014–2015 budget for support services.
Presenting prior to Monday’s board of education (BOE) meeting, school Business Administrator John O’Keefe showed the board tentative numbers on the BOE, central administration, legal services, public information services and insurance components.
The BOE is attempting to keep the 2014-2015 budget below the state-mandated two percent property tax levy cap. Quite unpopular at BOE meetings, the tax cap is a legislative limit that prohibits districts from increasing the levy, or the amount of funding the district must raise through property taxes, by more than two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
The support services component of the budget is at present projected to increase by 1.55 percent. According to a budget worksheet prepared by O’Keefe and interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso, a rollover budget for 2014-2015 is $37,408,672, a $1,900,050 or 5.35 percent increase over the 2013-2014 adopted budget.
The tentative budget projects $15,500 in funding for “public information,” primarily referring to the district’s consultant agreement with Syntax Communication, a public relations firm in Bohemia.
The BOE adopted two contracts with Syntax this year, one valued at $6,500 for work on the bond proposition and another for $9,500 for PR work from January 1 to June 30.
The district also used Syntax as a vendor for printing services for bond related work, at a cost of $2,025 for the bond newsletter and $1,130 for the post card mailer. In 2012-13, the district expended $1,738 on public information. In 2011-12, the district spent $2,072.
The projected expense for “public information” for next year’s budget, which could include renewed contracts with Syntax, is $15,500.
At Monday’s meeting, Syntax President Kathy Beatty told the board what that money buys.
“We take the burden off you dealing with the media,” she said, adding the firm never speaks on the district’s behalf without approval from the BOE or superintendent.