The Sag Harbor School Board of Education released a letter to Sag Harbor residents on Thursday, October 15, saying the board plans to “schedule negotiation sessions in the near future.”
“Communication between the parties must continue in order to identify options that could address each side’s concerns,” stated the board. “We look forward to working with the teachers to resolve all outstanding differences and settle the contract in a mutually beneficial manner.”
In the letter, the board recapitulated the history of the negotiations, since they first began in February of 2008, and referenced the fact finder’s report from August 2009. However, the board also highlighted data revealing the fiscal condition of the community. According to the board’s letter, the Sag Harbor School District has the lowest combined wealth ratio compared to the Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Southampton school districts.
“Combined Wealth Ratio is defined by the State Education Department as ‘based on a combined wealth, which weights income and property equally . . . each wealth ratio was computed by dividing the district’s wealth by the state average wealth as defined by law . . .’ The purpose is to measure the relative wealth between districts based on a State standard. A district of average wealth would have a Combined Wealth Ratio of 1.0,” explained the board. According to the data presented by the board, Sag Harbor has a CWR of around 4.85, Southampton has a CWR of 8.47, East Hampton has a CWR of 7.45 and Bridgehampton has a CWR of 20.87. (These figures are based on data from 2007.)
The board also presented the property tax levy as percentage of general fund expenditure, which in other words “measures the degree to which a district depends on the residents to pay property taxes and to support the cost of education.” The board showed figures from 2008 where 87.8% of the district’s expenses are derived from property taxes and not other sources like state or federal aid. This figure is compared to 79.7% in Southampton, 73.8% in East Hampton and 65% in Bridgehampton. The board added that the reliance on residential households is further exacerbated by less commercial development in Sag Harbor compared to East Hampton and Southampton.
The board also mentioned that they expect post-retirement health benefit costs will increase from $352,000, which the district spent last year, to $740,000 by 2014.
In some of the closing remarks of the letter, the board said: “The Board desires to reach an agreement that, in its entirety: (1) will result in the community supporting the district and teachers (2) will be fair to teachers, (3) will further the academic achievement of students, (4) will recognize the current economic realities and (5) will be supported by the best available data.”
A copy of the letter can be found on the home page of the district’s website at http://www.sagharborschools.org/