Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

Expecting a Tax Windfall? Guess Again.

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Southampton Town assessors have valued the Bulova Watchcase property at $38.5 million, and it’s expected to drop. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

As the Watchcase condominiums continue to take shape, transforming the once derelict Bulova building on Division Street in Sag Harbor into luxury housing, one might think the village’s tax base will be getting a huge boost soon.

And why not, with its 63 units being offered at prices ranging from $1 million for a small apartment to more than $10 million for one of its fourth-floor penthouses. So, when the last dab of touch-up paint is applied to the last piece of trim, will the development add $100 million, $150 million, or maybe even $200 million to the village’s $2.01 billion tax base?

Try $46 million—the amount the construction site was valued at the end of 2014—and dropping.

The preliminary assessment for 2015 has already reduced the property’s value to $38.5 million, and Southampton Assessor Lisa Goree expects the value to drop even more, to something closer to $31 million or $32 million, once all the units are sold.

“Because they are condos, they are not valued the same as residential property,” she said. “I know these units are selling for millions of dollars. However, real property law says we have to assess them as income property—what they would rent for.”

Assuming the village’s tax rate remains unchanged at about $2.79 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the Watchcase property will add only about $107,000 to the village’s coffers this year.  Similarly, at last year’s tax rate of $5.22, the development would pay about $201,000 in school taxes. Those amounts could be tripled, or even quadrupled, if the units were assessed the same way a single-family home across the street is.

“A lot of people thought it was going to be a cash cow for us—and the school district,” said Sag Harbor Village Trustee Ed Deyermond. “But it’s not.”

And Mr. Deyermond should know. He served as an assessor in East Hampton Town for years before moving to Southampton Town, where he oversaw a townwide reassessment, and served as assessor for 16 years in two separate stints.

The fly in the ointment is Chapter 581 of the New York State Real Property Law, he said.

“If you have a one-to-three-family home, it is valued using the market approach,” Mr. Deyermond said. “So if it sells for $1 million, at full assessment, you should be assessed at or near $1 million.”

But the state law requires that assessors apply a different rule of thumb to condominiums, cooperatives, townhouses,  and other similar property. “The income approach mandates—and courts have consistently upheld this—that you have to consider what those units would rent for, for the month, the year, in season and out of season,” he said.

The formula allows a condo owner to further reduce his assessment by deducting expenses for insurance, maintenance and repairs. Furthermore, it factors in the cost to the owner of tying up his money in the investment, which would typically reduce the value even more.

The same formula is applied to other condos in the village, including the Harbor Close condos on Long Island Avenue and the Villas and new Harbor’s Edge condos on West Water Street.

Don’t expect things to change soon, said State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. “There have been efforts to change the law, but they have never gotten off the ground,” he said. “Historically, the real estate lobby has lobbied really hard to keep it this way.”

Mr. Deyermond said he realizes the town’s hands were tied in how it ultimately assessed the property, but he questioned whether it could have phased in the change, from when the property was valued as a single commercial development owned by Cape Advisors to when it was divvied up into condo units last year.

“We argued that it could have been done over two to four years—until all the units are sold,” Mr. Deyermond said.

Not so, said Ms. Goree. “Once developer submits its condo plan to the state attorney general’s office and a percentage of them sell, we have to make the switch,” she said.

The $38.5 million valuation she came up with was a third higher than the amount the developer’s appraiser submitted, about $26 million, she said.

Cee Scott Brown, a broker with Corcoran Real Estate, who represents Watchcase, said this week that 72 percent of the units have been sold and he expects the rest to go fairly quickly, as the weather improves and construction nears an end.

“It has been a huge financial headache,” Mr. Deyermond said of the development, saying that construction work has left Washington, Church, and Sage Streets in serious disrepair.

But David Kronman, a partner in Cape Advisors, said the developers would repair any damage construction work caused to neighboring streets, and he pointed out that the developers had nothing to say about how the property was valued.

“I don’t think the project was approved because it would bring a windfall of tax revenue to the village,” he said. “The project was approved because it was reasonable and sensitive. We’re saving a historic building that was falling apart for years.”


Team Supreme Lives The Dream: Bridgehampton Robotics Team Headed to Nationals

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Bridgehampton’s Team Supreme celebrated qualifying for Nationals, last weekend, and now has the hard task of raising $15,000 in three weeks. Photo courtesy Kenny Giosi.

By Mara Certic

The East End was well represented last weekend at the Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition when Bridgehampton High School’s rookie Team Supreme surprised everyone by finishing in the top eight and qualifying for the FIRST Robotics Competition in St. Louis. Pierson High School’s team brought home an award for creativity.

A total of 51 schools competed in the Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition last week from March 26 to 28 at Hofstra University, to fight for a place at the International Robotics Competition in St. Louis later this month.

Robotics teams that compete in the FIRST tournaments are given a specific challenge in January, and then have about a month until “Stop Build Day” to build a robot capable of completing that task.

This year, teams were given the job of building a robot that is able to stack totes on top of one other, and for even more points, to place garbage cans on top of the totes.

Members of Bridgehampton’s Team Supreme (or Team 5659) were as surprised as most onlookers when they landed themselves a spot in the top eight in their first ever FIRST competition, qualifying them to compete in St. Louis.

Team Supreme co-captains Claudio Figueroa and Dylan Breault said they definitely wouldn’t have done so well if not for the help of the Pierson Robotics Team, whose prepared them for what to expect in the competition, as well as holding practice games with them before the tournament.

“They were the most essential team to our success,” Dylan said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have even gotten into the competition.”

At the end of the qualifying games, each of the top eight teams was allowed to choose two teams to bring as an “ally” to the finals. So when Bridgehampton qualified, its members knew they would ask Pierson’s Team 28 to accompany them to the playoffs. The alliance from Bridgehampton, Hicksville and Sag Harbor lost out in the quarterfinals, but the Team Supreme still finished with enough points to receive an invitation to St. Louis.

The team’s mentor, Mark McLeod, provided a lot of insight and support to the team, and attended meetings of the club once a week since October, forcing the teens to program and re-program robots, until it became second nature.

His hard work, and that of staff advisors Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz and Kenny Giosi, helped Team 5659 make their dream of qualifying come true.

“Honestly, I can’t explain how euphoric the experience was,” said Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz, who added that announcers and volunteers throughout the weekend repeated how much they loved Team Supreme. An alumni organization at Hofstra liked the team so much it offered to raise money to help send the rookie team to Missouri.

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The Pierson High School Robotics team earned a creativity award at the Robotics First Competition. Photo courtesy of the Sag Harbor School District

“None of us could have ever imagined that our first year in robotics would be so momentous and empowering,” she said. “It was not only the toughest fun that we could ever have, in a strange way, it was the funnest fun that we could ever have.”

Pierson’s veteran First Robotics Competition Team 28 won the Xerox creativity award for its robot, parts of which were made with a 3-D printer won by team members in an essay competition earlier this year.

“It was pretty cool stuff,” said Clint Schulman, the faculty advisor to the robotics team.

East Hampton High School, which doesn’t have its own team, had three students and their tech teacher, Trevor Gregory, accompany and compete alongside Pierson’s team. Local mentors Rick Pickering, Rob Coe and Jim Ritter contributed hours of help to Pierson’s team and “were really fundamental in the mechanics aspects of the program,” according to Mr. Schulman.

“At the end of the qualifications, we finished 29th, which was a little disappointing,” Mr. Schulman said. The co-captain of team, Kevin Spolarich, nevertheless felt that “the competition went pretty well for us overall.”

“We were really impressed with how well Bridgehampton did as a rookie team,” Kevin said. “They managed to build a really good robot despite lacking the experience or resources of other teams.”

Bridgehampton’s team now has three weeks to raise $15,000, which would be enough money to send all of the team members to the competition in St. Louis which will take place from April 22 through 25.

“We have an extremely supportive school district,” Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz said, but still the team needs to work harder than ever to raise the money it needs to make the trip.

From now until then, with its robot sealed in a bag in a corner of its work room, Team Supreme has three things on its to do list: Raise money, breathe, and make it become a reality.

For more information, or to donate money to Bridgehampton’s Team Supreme, contact team5659@gmail.com or call Dr. Lois Favre at (631) 537-0271, extension 1310.

New York State Budget’s Education Reforms Draw Criticism

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Just before graduation, Jessica Warne takes one last walk down the hallway at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor. Photo by Michael Heller.

Just before graduation, Jessica Warne takes one last walk down the hallway at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York’s school districts have watched Albany intently since January, when Governor Andrew Cuomo promised a $1.1 billion increase in education aid on the condition that the Republican-controlled State Senate and Democratic-led State Assembly agree to his series of education reforms.

Those reforms, called a “disgrace” by the state’s teachers’ unions and denied by a growing movement of parents who are “opting out” of state tests, include linking teacher evaluations more closely with student test scores, making it harder for teachers to be hired and easier for them to be fired, and allowing state takeovers of schools whose students perform poorly on tests.

Democrats in the Assembly, members of the governor’s own party, voiced their strong opposition to the reforms as they voted on the budget on Tuesday, March 31, but conceded that passing the budget and avoiding a government shutdown was of greater priority than preventing the education overhaul. An aide  to Senator Kenneth P. LaValle confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the budget’s final language was still being worked on before the formal adoption. By Wednesday, some concessions had been made, but not enough to quiet the worries of educators across the state and the growing opposition of parents and their children.

Although legislators, educators and teachers unions opposed the bulk of the reforms, the primary standout is teachers’ evaluations, which will be taken further out of the hands of the schools themselves. The governor wanted half of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on student performance on state tests, which educators and parents alike have decried, saying the system would put even more emphasis on “teaching to the test” and less on creative, engaging learning.

Administrators and school board members in Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Southampton and Bridgehampton have publicly spoken out against the governor’s reforms.

“It is ridiculous,” said Chris Tice, vice president of the Sag Harbor School Board, at a meeting last month. “It just puts more pressure on that single test being the only measure of effectiveness…it’s very unhealthy—this increased anxiety-ridden testing environment that the governor’s creating and ratcheting up.”

The new budget removes teachers evaluation planning from the legislative process and places the power of determining the weight of the various components, primarily test scores and observations, into the hands of the State Education Department, which will have to come up with a plan by June. The department gained notoriety last year for its haphazard rollout of the Common Core standards  when it administered tests to students before providing teachers and parents with basic materials like lesson plans and textbooks.

Under the new evaluation system approved Tuesday, teachers will continue to be judged on the current scale as “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective,” or “highly effective.” Those who teach math and English to third through eighth graders will be judged on their students’ performance on state tests in those subjects and high school teachers will be judged on the Regents exams. Educators whose courses don’t end in state exams, such as art or kindergarten teachers, will be evaluated based on “student learning objectives” determined by the state.

Observations conducted by a principal or administrator within the school and an “independent” observer from a different school will also play a role in a teacher’s grade. Lesson plans, student portfolios, and student and parent feedback surveys may no longer be considered in determining whether or not a teacher is doing their job.

In addition to requiring that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on tests, the governor wanted 35 percent to come from an observer from outside the district, with the remaining 15 percent determined by the teacher’s school itself, numbers that education proponents are urging the state to abandon.

“The idea of a teacher evaluation system being related to 85 percent coming from outside local control is absolutely horrific,” said Jim Kinnier, a math teacher at Pierson Middle/High School and president of the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor, who fears the Education Department is under the governor’s control and will end up implementing his desired weighting regardless of the input of legislators and educational experts.

“A lot of what this is, is the governor is unhappy with the teachers union on the state level because the teachers union didn’t endorse him…. a lot of this on his part is an eye for an eye kind of thing.”

Other components of the budget will make it harder to become a teacher in the state, which has been struggling to recruit new educators in recent years, and for teachers to keep their jobs. Every five years, teachers and administrators with lifetime certification will be required to register with the state again and complete 100 hours of continuing education or professional development under “rigorous standards” to be released by the Education Department. There is no funding mentioned to help school districts comply with the mandate. The state’s graduate schools of education will be required to “adopt rigorous selection criteria,” including a cumulative 3.0-grade-point average during an applicant’s undergraduate career. Teachers will not be able to qualify for tenure until they have taught for four years, as opposed to the current three.

“We’re reading articles about less and less people wanting to become teachers in New York State because we have a governor that’s creating a platform that seems to be…hostile to teachers and children, both,” said Ms. Tice.

In addition to the teachers union and state legislators, a grassroots movement of opposition has formed in the state and is swiftly growing on the East End. New York State United Teachers Union President Karen Magee encouraged parents to “opt-out,” or remove their children from standardized testing, saying it is the only effective method of resisting the governor’s changes, and a group of local parents is taking up the charge, opting their children out of the state exams, which begin on April 14.

“The goal for us parents and teachers is to get as many families to refuse the test as possible, because that’s where it gets noticed,” said a Pierson Middle School parent who wished to remain anonymous until the group comes out publicly. “I don’t really have a political bone in my body, but at this point it’s really hard to ignore…. the testing is ineffective and it’s not pro-student, it’s not pro-teacher, it’s not pro-school.”

Mr. Kinnier said he is generally in support of standardized testing because it helps teachers to serve their students and “the school can look at their program and make adjustments based on results. It allows you to compare where our students are compared to other students across Long Island and across New York and I think those are good things.”

On the state exams for third through eighth graders, however, teachers do not receive students’ results. They are given a numerical grade of one through four for each student, but no additional information on what a student struggled with or what areas were challenging, so they cannot diagnostically look at the right and wrong answers and adjust their program accordingly.

“The state exams on the seventh and eighth grade level are more challenging than the Common Core Algebra Regents Exam,” said Mr. Kinnier. “And the reason why the state makes the Common Core Algebra Regents Exam so easy is because it’s one of the requirements to graduate from high school, so they have these other tests which their only purpose is to judge teachers.”

Teachers across the state write the Regents exams, which are included on students’ high school transcripts, but Pearson, a for-profit testing company with strong lobbies in Albany, writes, administers, and grades the exams for younger students.

“That’s another thing that virtually all teachers are opposed to—these state exams ought to be written by teachers and not a for-profit test writing company,” said Mr. Kinnier.

The teachers union is “taking a close look” at how the state is spending money for testing purposes and links between leaders in Albany and profiteers at Pearson, he added.

Noyac Couple Count Its Easter Blessings

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Pastor Doug Kinney and his wife, Meg, in front of the Community Bible Church in Noyac. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz. 

By Mara Certic

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. But Pastor Doug Kinney never lost faith, even when both he and his wife were diagnosed with cancer within four months of each other.

Mr. Kinney, the pastor of the Community Bible Church in Noyac, his wife Meg and their six children have had a particularly tough winter, with cancer diagnoses, chemotherapy and operations dominating much of the past few months. This Easter Sunday, April 5, the Kinney family is feeling blessed by the Sag Harbor community and will more than ever celebrate the hope of eternal life.

“And we are so, so blessed,” Mrs. Kinney said, talking about the endless amount of support they have received from the Sag Harbor and church communities.

Since both parents were diagnosed, community members have reached out to help in some way: A group in the church set up a fund to help the Kinneys pay for medical bills that were not covered by insurance; a group of teachers have set up a collection for the family and friends have stepped in to take care of the Kinneys’ six children when they had to go to the city for treatment.

Their son Zebulun’s ninth grade class at Pierson High School got together this week to prepare meals for the family, and on Saturday, April 18, the Sag Harbor Fire Department and its Ladies Auxiliary are co-hosting a spaghetti and meatball dinner at the firehouse to raise money for the Kinneys.

“We’re so blessed by the community,” Mr. Kinney said.

For Pastor Kinney, cancer began with an intermittent toothache in one of his canines that started bothering him in June. Then it switched to the other one. And then it went away.

His dentist couldn’t find anything wrong, dismissed it as just one of those things and suggested that he take a Tylenol.

“Then all four of my teeth went numb,” Mr. Kinney said, and then that too went away. But a lingering feeling remained, a lingering feeling that something was not right.

In September, an oral surgeon diagnosed him with stage 4 lymphoma, which doctors at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center confirmed.

Mrs. Kinney travelled with her husband to Manhattan for treatment, where they’d stay for five days at a time, exploring the city between visits to Sloan Kettering.

“I was able to walk around with the bag of chemo,” Mr. Kinney said, adding that the side effects wouldn’t start to kick in until after the full five days of treatment, when he got back home to Noyac. Sixteen days after one series treatments, just as he would begin to feel normal again, it was back to the city for another round.

Three months into his chemotherapy, Mrs. Kinney went to the doctor for an overdue mammogram. While examining her neck, her doctor discovered a lump. Eleven needle biopsies later, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Mr. and Mrs. Kinney met in 1997 when he was a pastor’s assistant at the Community Bible Church, and she was a congregant.  They would only see each other when Mrs. Kinney would come back home for “the big holidays.” It was around Easter in 1997 when they fell in love, and two years later they were married.

In an odd twist of fate, Mrs. Kinney’s grandparents, Bill and Harriet Steck, were the founders of the church where she now plays the part of the “silent person” behind the scenes. In addition to their work with the church and raising their six children together, they also own and operate a 24-hour Christian radio station.

When Mrs. Kinney was diagnosed they kept asking themselves why. Why both of them? Mr. Kinney asked this so much that he convinced himself that their water could have been contaminated with something carcinogenic until he had it tested. But still, he didn’t lose faith.

“This is a time for your faith to kick in,” Mr. Kinney said. “This is a test for us.”

“We really believe part of the Christian faith promises that Christ will be with you at every trial,” he said.

“Life is full of potholes,” his wife added. “You just have to know how to deal with them.”

On March 6, after four months of chemotherapy, Mr. Kinney got the good news that he was in total remission and was entirely lymphoma-free. He will still go in for screenings and tests for the next two years as a precaution.

Almost two weeks later, Mrs. Kinney had her thyroid removed, along with five lymph nodes. She will learn more about what they discovered during surgery at a doctor’s appointment this week. She said the doctors have been positive about her prognosis but may recommend radioiodine treatment.

“The kids have been really great,” Mrs. Kinney said. It was hard enough for them when their father was diagnosed, but when both parents had cancer, “it was really difficult,” she added.

While parents always want to shield their children from pain, the Kinneys knew from the beginning they had to tell their kids about their diseases.

“We knew we were going to tell our congregation because we believe in prayer,” Mr. Kinney said. “There was no way to hide it from them.”

“But kids are just so resilient,” Mrs. Kinney said, as her 5-year-old daughter Campbelle climbed onto her lap.

“This Easter, we celebrate the hope of eternal life, but our biggest concerns are for the ones we’d leave behind,” he said.

On Easter Sunday, Pastor Kinney plans to speak about the Apostle Thomas, the disciple who did not believe Jesus had been crucified and risen from the dead until he could see and feel his wounds.

“Jesus answers those doubts,” Pastor Kinney said. “It’s not like he said, ‘Thomas, you’re fired.’ He showed him. And I think that’s what God does.”




Local Girl Scout Troop Sells Bricks for Mashashimuet Park

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By Mara Certic

 Discussions about today’s youth often range from test scores to crime rates and drug abuse, and fail to touch on the many ways young people are looking to give back to their communities.

But on the East End of Long Island, large groups of children and teenagers are working hard to come up with new ways to provide services for and improve their neighborhoods and towns, and are raising more money along the way.

Sag Harbor’s Girl Scout Troop 152 actually broke down into smaller groups in order to choose whom to help for its Bronze Award project. The nine girls, who are mostly fifth-graders, decided to do something for Mashashimuet Park after committees met with the park board, library board and members of the Sag Harbor Fire Department.

“The girls voted on the park,” said Scout Leader Jen Glass. “They wanted to give back to the park and would like to see some new stuff; that equipment’s been there since I was a child and I’m 44.” she said on Tuesday.

The troop has decided to raise their money by starting a buy-a-brick program Ms. Glass explained. Bricks will be placed in a new walkway on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike-side of the park.

“It’ll open up into a patio and we’ll lay the bricks we sell there in that area,” she said. “And then the park will continue to raise funds and can expand the sidewalk.” The bricks cost $50 apiece and can fit up to three lines of text with 18 to 20 characters per line.

Troop 152 is trying to do all of the brick-selling by May, in order to install the bricks before the end of the school year. The Girl Scouts will then use the money earned selling bricks to purchase a new piece of play equipment for the park.

The girls are also working with local artist Chris Nielson to design a new welcome sign for the park.

One of the scouts has created order forms for those interested in purchasing bricks, which are available at mashashimuetpark.com.

“It’s where these girls have enjoyed their time and they’re getting older now so they just want to give back,” Ms. Glass said.

For the past four years, as part of an effort spearheaded by Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the Town of Southampton has been helping those who want to give back by offering small grants to youth groups or individuals who need financial support to perform a community service.

Last week, the town board and the town’s Youth Bureau awarded almost $3,000 in grants to 11 different applicants.

“Some of the ideas that the kids are proposing are really interesting and different,” said Nancy Lynott, the bureau’s director. “We have kids of all ages. That’s another thing I really like about it,” she said.

Three siblings in the Westhampton Beach School District won a grant for their community service project called Builders and Books, which provides bookshelves full of age-appropriate-books to kids in need.

“[Our mom] is the Reading Coordinator at Tuckahoe School in Southampton,” One of those children, Emilee Downs, 14, in an email last week, explained that their mother is the reading coordinator at Tuckahoe School in Southampton. “She told us how some of her students were in need of books to read and that some of them weren’t able to get to the public library because they didn’t have transportation or their parents work a lot,” she wrote.

So Emilee and her brother Zach, 18, and sister Ally, 12, started organizing book drives and asked construction companies to donate bookshelves. The teens then curate the selection, choosing books they think specific children would like the most, and they’re delivered to homes in the Tuckahoe and Westhampton Beach school districts. This school year, they have already given out nine bookshelves, each one stocked with anywhere from 200 to 400 books.

This grant will allow them to deliver 11 more fully stocked bookshelves.

“It’s really a great feeling to see how excited the families are to receive them,” Emilee wrote.  “At one house, the two little boys were smiling and laughing and jumping up and down like it was Christmas.”






No Wrongdoing Found in Question of Sag Harbor School Board Member’s Residency

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By Tessa Raebeck

Longtime Sag Harbor School Board member Susan Kinsella’s decision to put her North Haven home on the market in October and move out of the district temporarily while her new home, also in Sag Harbor, is being renovated, has raised some eyebrows but is perfectly acceptable, according to district officials.

“When a member of the Sag Harbor School District Board of Education informed the board of an upcoming temporary housing displacement, the Board of Education consulted with the district’s legal counsel [School Attorney Thomas Volz], conducted an inquiry regarding the residency of a board member and completed the process of due diligence,” the district responded to a query from The Sag Harbor Express. “It was unanimously determined by the Board of Education that the board member in question meets the requirements of residency in the Sag Harbor School District.”

The Express looked into the matter after it was discussed on Facebook.

According to Linda Bakst, the deputy director of policy services for the New York State School Boards Association,  which oversees and guides all of New York’s school boards, because Ms. Kinsella has the intent to return to the district and remain a Sag Harbor resident, there is no misconduct.

“If the intent is to return and there’s no intent to leave, we don’t believe the person loses their claim of residency in the circumstances described,” Ms. Bakst said in a phone conversation on Wednesday, April 1.

Ms. Kinsella confirmed on Saturday, March 28, that she plans to move into her new home in Sag Harbor once renovations are completed. She declined to comment further.

Joe Markowski Named Buildings and Grounds Supervisor for Sag Harbor Schools

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Joseph Markowski was appointed in a temporary position as Buildings and Grounds Supervisor for Sag Harbor on Monday, March 23. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Joseph Markowski was appointed in a temporary position as Buildings and Grounds Supervisor for Sag Harbor on Monday, March 23. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Joseph Markowski, a longtime employee of Sag Harbor schools who has continued to serve the district on a volunteer basis since his retirement, was appointed buildings and grounds supervisor, a new position in the district, on Monday, March 23.

In the temporary role, he will take on the duties formerly held by Montgomery Granger, who was removed from his position as plant facilities administrator last month. Mr. Markowski came out of retirement in order to return to the district for the remainder of this school year, giving the board and administration time to find a permanent replacement for Mr. Granger.

After working in the district for five years, Mr. Granger was terminated on February 23. That termination was rescinded on Monday, and the board instead approved a resignation agreement with Mr. Granger.

A school custodial supervisor in the district from 1990 until his retirement in 2005, Mr. Markowski has spent the years since filling various roles in the district and community. He helps annually with the school budget vote and elections and has worked as a substitute school monitor.

At Monday’s board meeting, Superintendent Katy Graves called Mr. Markowski, “a veteran of the district who will be helping us through the transition period.”

In addition to remaining involved in the schools, Mr. Markowski is active in the wider Sag Harbor community. He is an assistant captain and warden in the Sag Harbor Fire Department, involved in fundraising efforts for St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church in the village, a member of the Sag Harbor Historical Society, a member of the Suffolk County Bicentennial committee, and is the co-chairman of Sag Harbor’s bicentennial commission.

Mr. Markowski also earned some fame last winter for the photo he snapped of snow melting in the shape of a whale on a Sag Harbor roof, which was first shown on the Sag Harbor Express’s Facebook page and later picked up by a Scottish newspaper, The Scotsman.

“He is a true historian and his interests really include anything related to Sag Harbor,” School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi said. “You can ask any question and he pretty much knows the answer.”

“Having someone on board who has the time and the experience and can give us that time to reflect and see how we’re going to reconfigure as a system I think is very important,” added Ms. Graves. “Because I think we often rush in and just fill a position to fill a position.”

The administration committed to using the interim period to finding “a more fiscal way to address our leadership needs—the smartest way to go.”

School board member Sandi Kruel told newer members of the board a story about Mr. Markowski, remembering a few evenings some years ago when he slept overnight at the school to monitor the boilers when they weren’t working properly.

Chuckling, Mr. Markowski thanked the board for his “nice vacation” of 10 years.

The next meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Education is Tuesday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m., immediately following a budget workshop that starts at 6:45 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the library at Pierson Middle/High School, located at 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor.

First Full Draft of Sag Harbor School District Proposed Budget Presented

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By Tessa Raebeck

In the first review of the entire proposed budget for the 2015-16 school year, Sag Harbor School District officials unveiled over $37.4 million in spending, the bulk of which will go to employee benefits and salaries.

While some numbers have yet to be disclosed, School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi made projections for several budget lines, including state aid and taxable assessed values for properties in the Towns of Southampton and East Hampton, based on last year’s figures.

Ms. Buscemi projected $1.7 million in state aid, although “this number is subject to change” as Governor Andrew Cuomo has still not released the final state aid numbers to districts, she said. That number represents an increase of 3.85 percent, or $63,027, from the 2014-15 budget.

The budget’s largest proposed increase is in instruction, in part due to a new in-house special education program “that’s going to allow a lot of our students coming in to stay in the district and receive services in the district,” Ms. Buscemi said. But those increases are expected to be offset savings in things like transportation and tuition fees. Total Instruction, which accounts for 57 percent of all expenses, is projected to increase by 3.14 percent, or $641,128 from this year’s budget, for a projected total of $21.06 million.

While instruction costs, which includes appropriations for all regular instruction at both the Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School, as well as expenditures for special education programs, extracurricular activities and athletics, is increasing, employee benefits are expected to decrease.

“We did receive an increase to our health insurance lines,” Ms. Buscemi said, “but [with the] decrease in our pension costs, we were able to show a decline for next year…that’s probably the first time in many, many years where you see a decline in employee benefits.”

Employee benefits, which represent almost a quarter of the entire budget, are expected to decline by 1.56 percent.

Salaries and benefits, largely contractual costs, together make up nearly 80 percent of the total budget.

Tuition revenues are expected to decrease by $147,000, because children who have been coming to the district from the Springs School District will now be going to East Hampton after a new agreement was made between those districts. Sag Harbor collected $550,000 in out-of-district tuition and transportation costs in 2014-15, and expects that revenue to decrease to $430,000 next year.

Ms. Buscemi again proposed that the district purchase a new bus. It would ease transportation scheduling and ultimately show cost savings, she said. Contracting out one bus run costs about $50,000 for the year, Ms. Buscemi said, “So it makes sense for us to go out and purchase a new bus” because the cost of $102,000 could be made up in just two years.

“We’re just under the cap right now at 2.65” percent, Ms. Buscemi said of the state-mandated tax cap on how much the property tax levy can increase year to year, “but in order to close our budget gap, we did need to use some of our reserve funds.”

As projected, the tax levy limit for Sag Harbor is above $34.1 million, or 2.68 percent. The percentage is not the same as the increase to an individual property owner’s tax rate. The tax levy is determined by the budget minus revenues and other funding sources, such as state aid. The tax rate, on the other hand, “is based not only on the levy, but also on the assessed value of your home,” Ms. Buscemi explained.

For the first time since the 2010-11 school year, the taxable assessed values for both the Town of Southampton and the Town of East Hampton increased from the prior year. Although the school district’s voters approved a budget last year that allowed for a tax levy increase of 1.48 percent, the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value actually decreased by 0.56 to 0.63 percent, depending on home value and town, because of the growth in taxable assessed value.

“Just because the tax levy is increasing, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your tax rate is going to increase,” added Ms. Buscemi. “If the current year’s assessed value goes up these increases are going to decline and vice versa.”

The 2015-16 projected tax levy is about $34.1 million, which represents a tax levy increase of 2.65 percent and a projected tax rate increase of 2.5 percent.

That projected tax rate increase of 2.5 percent would translate to an increase of $130.26 for a home in Southampton valued at $1 million and $130.40 for a home of the same value in East Hampton, based on the 2014-15 assessed values.

A second review of the entire budget will be held on Tuesday, April 14, at 6:45 p.m. in the library of Pierson Middle/High School, located at 201 Jermain Street in Sag Harbor. The school board plans to adopt the 2015-16 budget on April 22 and hold a public hearing on May 5. The annual budget vote and school board elections are on May 19.

Lower Speed Limits?


A lower speed limit may be coming to Sag Harbor. At its March 14 meeting, the village board passed what is known as a home rule request, a resolution asking the state legislature to allow it to reduce its speed limit on most village streets from 25 mph to 20 mph.

In January, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle both introduced legislation that would allow both Sag Harbor and East Hampton villages to reduce speed limits as a traffic calming measure.

The idea for lowering the speed limit gained traction last year when the legislature allowed New York City to reduce its speed limit on most residential streets from 30 mph to 25 mph, a move championed by Mayor Bill de Blasio as one way to make city streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Page Tangles With Sag Harbor Planning Board Again

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The uneasy cease-fire in the battle between Page at 63 Main and Sag Harbor Village officials over the restaurant’s expansion efforts ended when the village planning board again took up the application on Tuesday, March 24.

Last summer, the restaurant was cited by the village for overreaching its site-plan approval when it constructed improvements for the Back Page on Division Street behind the main restaurant. The village maintained that what was supposed to be a waiting area, where diners could have hors d’oeuvres and a drink while waiting for a table in the main restaurant, had been used instead as a late-night hangout and outdoor dining area. When the matter was not cleared up, the village board revoked the restaurant’s outdoor dining license. Page sued and won a temporary restraining order, but its suit was later dismissed.

Dennis Downes, the attorney for the restaurant, conceded the Back Page has “functioned a little differently” than what was originally approved but said the restaurant should still be granted site-plan approval for the work. “The use of the area has changed,” he told the board. “The use of the facility is still a restaurant.”

Planning Board member Larry Perrine, who filled in for the board’s chairman, Greg Ferraris, who recused himself after having done some accounting work for some of Page’s partners, said the board was not happy with the way uninvents had unfolded.

He said the restaurant’s owners had first substituted a patio that was larger than a lawn area it replaced and moved an enclosed and refrigerated Dumpster to a position along the property line. The Dumpster, the village said, posed a fire hazard and also required a variance.

Mr. Perrine said instead of a waiting area to be used during regular hours the Back Page had “later hours—hours as late as 4 a.m. in the morning have been reported by neighbors to me personally. It’s almost like a late night bar scene. It is almost functioning as a second business.”

Last month, Page received variances from the village Zoning Board of Appeals allowing it to keep its Dumpster along the property line next to Murph’s Tavern and keep the expanded patio area. Mr. Perrine said the Planning Board was not advised of that action.

“In order to get the variance we had to work with three building inspectors,” Mr. Downes said, and when planning board attorney Denise Schoen said current building inspector Tom Preiato had not signed off on whether the Dumpster enclosure was fireproof, as required, Mr. Downes grew testy.

“You know what really bothers me? All this stuff comes up after the fact,” he said. “If Tom has an objection, he needs to provide a list of deficiencies so we can take care of it. I can’t guess.”

“That is an unbelievably unfair assessment of this process,” Ms. Schoen replied.

Last year, when the matter was before the planning board, Mr. Downes and one of Page’s owners, Gerard Wawryk, insisted that a survey showing the changed location of the Dumpster had been approved by the board when Ms. Schoen was out of the room. Mr. Perrine dismissed that account, telling them he had personally listened to all the recordings of the board’s meetings, and the matter had never been discussed.

Mr. Wawryk threatened to once again sue the village. “We’ll wind up back in court,” he said. “That’s all there is to it. That’s the way it’s going to be.”

The board tabled the matter to next month’s meeting, as it waits for Page to certify the Dumpster is indeed fireproof, provide updated surveys, and submit a description for precisely what it plans to do with the site plan.

Hagen Seeks Bed and Breakfast

The board also held a hearing on Zoning Board chairman Anton Hagen’s application to legalize a bed and breakfast he has operated in his home on Main Street. Mr. Hagen told the board he was trying to comply with an initiative undertaken by the village board to legalize bed and breakfasts to ensure they meet fire and other safety standards.

Although the board asked Mr. Hagen to provide an engineer’s report to address whether his house’s sanitary system was up to the task, he told it that the stubborn winter weather had made it impossible to uncover the sanitary system and mark its location on a survey.

Nonetheless, in a letter to the board, he requested that it approve his application before the report is in hand, noting that he is retired and plans to supplement his income with the bed and breakfast business.

That request drew a rebuke from Mr. Ferraris. “For you of all people to request special treatment for your application is almost unthinkable,” he told Mr. Hagen.

The board adjourned the hearing until next month.