Tag Archive | "school budgets"

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.

Sag Harbor School District Proposes Technology, Transportation, Benefits Budget

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By Tessa Raebeck

A month before the entire 2015-16 budget is to be reviewed, Sag Harbor School District administrators presented technology, debt service, employee benefits and transportation components to the board of education on Monday.

With “no additional items that we haven’t had in previous budgets,” according to Technology Director Scott Fisher, the technology budget is proposed at slightly over $1 million, up by nearly 12 percent from the 2014-15 budget, which was just above $932,000.

“As you all know,” Mr. Fisher told the board, “the role of technology has expanded here exponentially in the past years…essentially everybody in the district is somehow impacted by the technology support.”

The technology department is looking to bring in additional support staff and to continue its upgrading, replenishment and purchasing of computer and wireless systems and supplies. Proposed increases of $18,650 at the Sag Harbor Elementary School and $15,200 at Pierson Middle/High School will account for the purchase of additional laptops and Chromebooks, low-cost computers that are popular in classrooms.

The transportation budget, computed by School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and Head Bus Driver Maude Stephens, who was not at Monday’s meeting, would increase by just about $51,000, or 6.83 percent, to about $802,000, due in large part to a proposed bus purchase.

“Right now, all of our buses are being utilized and we don’t even have a spare bus,” said Ms. Buscemi, adding that the state Education Department recommends school districts have at least one spare.

Buying a new large bus would cost the district $102,000 up front. Another option, Ms. Buscemi said, would be to finance the bus over a 10-year period, a decision that would require the district to budget $13,000 a year for the next decade. School buses have an expected life of about 15 years, she added.

Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said it would be practical to finance the bus purchase due to low interest rates and because “we have such a phenomenal bond rating,” as Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the district’s bond rating from A1 to Aa3 last May.

The employee benefits component of the budget, an area that usually shows large, unavoidable increases, is actually expected to decrease for the 2015-16 school year, due to a reduction in the percentage school districts must contribute to retirement costs.

The Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS) is recommending an employer contribution rate of about 13 percent for the 2015-16 school year, while that rate was much higher, at over 17 percent, for this school year, 2014-15. The employees are not receiving less in benefits, due to the change, rather, school districts are being required to contribute a smaller amount needed for the system to be able to pay out the required amount in benefits.

“That reduction of $518,000 is going to eat up a lot of the increases in the other areas,” Ms. Buscemi said, adding, “This is probably the first time in a long time that you’re going to see a decrease in that employee benefit and I’m hoping that that continues.”

The total projected employee benefits budget for next year is around $9.3 million, a decrease of $128,125, or 1.35 percent, from this year’s budget.

The debt services budget is also proposed to decrease, going down by about $29,000, or 2.48 percent, to a projected total of over $1.5 million. That projection is in part based on historically low interest rates.

With many of the rates needed to compute the budget not yet available, Ms. Buscemi had to estimate on some of the budget items, usually anticipating an increase of 3 percent.

“There are definitely areas here—that I’ve gone through in the past budget workshops and today—that we could cut if we had to,” Ms. Buscemi said, using the proposed school bus purchase as an example.

The preliminary numbers, Ms. Buscemi told the board, suggest the school district is in a very good position for the budget season and will “be able to maintain everything this year.”

The state aid numbers, which show New York’s school districts how much money they can expect from the state, have still not been released by Governor Andrew Cuomo and are expected to remain in political limbo for some time. The governor has said he will not release his education budget until the divided State Legislature approves all of his proposed educational reforms, many of which are controversial.

Bridgehampton School District Unveils First Draft of Proposed $12.6 Million Budget

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Bridgehampton School Business Administrator Robert Hauser presents the first draft of the 2015-16 budget to the Bridgehampton Board of Education, including (l. to r.) District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh and Ronnie White, president of the school board, on Thursday, January 29. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Bridgehampton School Business Administrator Robert Hauser presents the first draft of the 2015-16 budget to the Bridgehampton Board of Education, including (l. to r.) District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh and Ronnie White, president of the school board, on Thursday, January 29. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Bridgehampton School District appears to be in “much better financial shape this year than last year, according to business administrator Robert Hauser, as the school board on Thursday, January 29, took its first look at a preliminary $12.6 million budget for the 2015-16 school year.

The first draft represents an increase of nearly $330,000, or 2.67 percent, over last year’s budget.

“Fortunately, this year, things look a lot better than they did last year,” Mr. Hauser told the board.

Last spring, the school board had difficulty getting the current year’s $12.3 million budget passed. That spending plan pierced the state-mandated tax cap with an 8.8-percent increase over the previous year. It failed to receive the required 60-percent supermajority in the first vote in May, then barely passed when 62 percent of voters supported it in a second and final ballot in June.

The state-mandated limit, which determines how much a district can increase its property tax levy from one year to the next, is known as the 2-percent tax cap, but the percentage actually varies based on the Consumer Price Index. This year, at 1.62 percent, the cap will again be lower than its name.

“So, we’re only allowed to collect, in a sense, 1.62 percent more from the residents here,” explained Mr. Hauser. “However, the spending is going up 2.67 percent. So…the spending’s going up more than the actual amount we’re allowed to collect.”

The first draft of Bridgehampton’s current budget, presented last winter, breached the cap by over $1 million; the 2014-15 draft is over the cap by about $106,000, Mr. Hauser said.

Many of the included expenses are mandated by the state, such as Common Core-related professional development for teachers, fingerprinting for all new staff, and nearly $7,000 for “records management,” as school district payroll reports must be maintained for 50 years.

New items in the 2015-16 budget include adding iPads, Google Chromebooks and other technology updates as part of the district’s 5-year plan, a base increase in social security tax for employees, which the school district must match, and increased building maintenance.

During last year’s cutting of the current budget, the school board chose to reduce the number of days the Homework Club was offered after school to cut costs. Mr. Hauser said the school intends to restore those hours for the next school year.

An increase of $24,734, slated for adding a high school girls volleyball team and purchasing new volleyball equipment, is included in the proposed athletics budget, which is about $150,000 in total.

Health benefits for retirees and full-time employees are expected to increase by almost $100,000 to over $1.5 million, Mr. Hauser said. Most of that expense is for vision, dental and health benefits for full-time employees, as Medicare primarily covers retirees. Under the new Affordable Care Act, the district must provide health benefits to any employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

Some components of the budget, such as salaries determined by unsettled teachers and administrative contracts, insurance costs, and revenue from state aid, are not yet finalized. In a move that is unprecedented in the last 40 years, Governor Andrew Cuomo will not be releasing the amount of aid he is proposing for New York’s schools to the school districts ahead of time.

On January 21, in his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo said he would grant an additional $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, to New York’s schools only if the Legislature passes several of his proposed educational reforms. If the Legislature, divided between a Democratic Assembly and a Republican Senate, does not comply, the governor threatened to limit that increase to 1.7 percent.

“In the meantime, we’re all in limbo here, because we don’t know how much aid he’s proposing to give us as a base,” Mr. Hauser said Thursday.

One of Governor Cuomo’s conditions is another overhaul of the recently revamped teacher evaluation systems, so that student test scores account for more of a teacher’s rating. Others include making it harder for teachers to get tenure and easier for them to be fired, establishing more charter schools, which would be required to take less advantaged students, and sending specialists in to transform failing schools.

The final numbers for the state’s $23.1 billion education budget will be revealed in the legislative budget on April 1. School districts, however, are required to tell the state comptroller’s office whether or not they will try to pierce the tax cap a month beforehand, by March 1.

Mr. Hauser said Bridgehampton, which generally gets about 5 percent of its revenue from state aid, relies less on the governor’s budget than other districts, and the budget wouldn’t be drastically affected should the legislature fail to comply with the governor’s demands.

Sag Harbor School District Presents First Draft of $1.5 Million Support Services Budget

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A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

To start the Sag Harbor School District’s five-month budget season, Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi presented the first draft of a nearly $1.5 million support services budget, which covers the board of education, central administration, legal services, public information services, and insurance components of the district’s overall budget.

This school year’s $36.8 million budget, which easily passed last May by a 72-percent margin, had an increase of $1.36 million, or 3.83 percent, in spending from the previous school year. The district’s tax levy increase of 1.48 percent came in below the state’s 1.51 percent property tax levy cap for the district, which was determined by calculations specific to last year.

“We are looking at every single line individually,” Ms. Buscemi told the board at the workshop on Monday, January 12. “We’re trying to stay very, very conservative,” she said, adding that once health insurance and pension increases are applied, diligence will be demanded in other areas. Those costs take up a significant portion of the budget each year; salaries and benefits generally account for more than 80 percent of the overall budget. The last 20 percent of the budget must account for programs, technology, facilities and maintenance.

The support services budget was not yet complete, with several lines requiring further edits or information. Much of the data needed to finalize this year’s budget, such as insurance rates, BOCES rates, and clerical salaries, is not yet available. Superintendent Katy Graves’s salary has also not yet been determined, and is listed at $215,000, her current salary.

Some potential savings also remain undetermined. Several of the capital projects afforded by the bond referendum voters passed in 2013, such as floor replacements, the new turf field, and other safety measures, could save the district money by lowering the cost of student accident insurance, which is budgeted for $50,000.

“In some instances,” added Ms. Graves, “you actually save because insurance companies feel [more secure].”

This year the district joined a new purchasing cooperative, Educational Data Basic and T&M Services, to issue bids for the district.

“This $5,000 will save us a lot of time and money with bidding,” said Ms. Buscemi, adding that it will save the district money in advertising and time in manpower by doing bids through the cooperative, rather than through the business office.

“We’re going to get a better quality product at a lower cost,” Ms. Graves added.

Rather than putting out bids as a single entity, being part of the cooperative enables the district to go through an agency and have many units purchase at the same time, and save money by banding together with other districts on the East End.

The public information line, which has been up for much debate as the district grapples with how best to increase communications—particularly online—with parents and the wider public in a digital age, is projected to decrease by 4.64 percent, going from $75,500 budgeted for this year to $72,000 for 2014-15. While postage fees will remain steady, the district will be allocating $40,000 it had been paying a private firm to BOCES for public information services.

The district will host workshops on the remaining portions of the budget before the first draft is unveiled on March 23. Athletics, capital project work, and buildings and grounds will be covered at the January 26 workshop. Technology, special education, debt service, employee benefits and transportation will be on February 23, and on March 9 the elementary, middle and high schools, and BOCES administration and services sections will be presented. All workshops are at 6 p.m. in the Pierson library.

A second review of the entire budget will be held April 13, and the budget adoption is scheduled for April 22, followed by another review on April 27. The budget hearing will be May 5 and the districtwide vote is on May 19, as are school board elections.

Update: In Second Vote Attempt, Bridgehampton School Budget Passes

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District Treasurer Laura Spillane and District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh celebrate after the passage of the Bridgehampton School budget vote on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

District Treasurer Laura Spillane and District Clerk Tammy Cavanaugh celebrate after the passage of the Bridgehampton School budget vote as school board member Jennifer Vinski looks on on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton voters approved a $12.3 million budget that pierces a state-mandated tax cap on the second try on Tuesday, June 17.

Out of 385 voters casting ballots, 240 voted yes and 145 said no, giving the budget 62-percent approval, just above the 60-percent supermajority required to pierce the state-mandated tax cap.

The budget requires a $10.6 million tax levy, an 8.8-percent increase over the 2013-14 budget. It amounts to an increase of about $56 for the year on the tax bill of a house valued at $500,000, district officials said.

In the district’s first budget vote on May 20, a total of 247 voters turned out. Of those, 54 percent, or 134 voters, said yes to the budget and 113 said no.

School board members, parents and community supporters responded to the defeat with a grassroots, get-out-the-vote campaign to ensure there were more ballots to count in the second go-round. With a turnout increase of 138 and double the supporters in attendance as the results were read, it appeared they had succeeded.

Those students, parents and administrators gathered in the Bridgehampton School gymnasium Tuesday night to hear the results of their second and final attempt seemed to let out a collective sigh of relief as the tally was read.

“We are thrilled,” said Lillian Tyree-Johnson, a lifelong Bridgehampton resident and school board member, who said she had gotten little sleep in the weeks in between the votes, as she lay in bed wondering what they would do should more cuts need to be made.

If the budget had failed a second time, the district would have been forced to adopt a 0-percent tax levy increase and craft a new plan with some $800,000 less in spending than the one proposed.

Contractual obligations account for the majority of the budget’s increased costs. An increase of $332,000 in the cost of medical insurance for employees alone put the district’s levy increase over the tax cap.

Elizabeth Kotz and Melanie LaPointe count absentee ballots following the Bridgehampton School budget vote in the school's gymnasium on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

Elizabeth Kotz and Melanie LaPointe count absentee ballots following the Bridgehampton School budget vote in the school’s gymnasium on Tuesday, June 17. Photo by Michael Heller.

“It’s good that they didn’t have to go through that struggle of trying to figure out how to make the cuts that they would have had to face,” said Elizabeth Kotz, who served on the board this year when the budget was crafted but did not seek another term. “It would have been just terrible.” Ms. Kotz is the wife of Sag Harbor Express managing editor Stephen J. Kotz.

“We have some work to do in the very near future to begin strategizing on new and innovative ways to communicate to naysayers about how wonderful their school is,” Ronald White, president of the school board, said Wednesday. “We appreciate the super majority, as their answer was clear to pierce.”

“The current board has worked very diligently to cut costs and provide savings to our district,” he added.

After the results were read Tuesday, school board member Jennifer Vinski accounted the success to “the community at large that really kind of realized that this was serious business. There’s too much to lose.”

“We are grateful to the Bridgehampton community for their support on the second vote,” Dr. Lois Favre, superintendent/principal for the district, said in an email Wednesday, June 18. “We thank everyone who took the time to vote, and we look forward to continuing our good work on behalf of the students of Bridgehampton School, confident that we can continue to move forward with our goals for continual improvement.”

Second Budget Vote for the Bridgehampton School District is Tuesday, June 17

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By Tessa Raebeck

After its first budget vote failed to garner the 60 percent supermajority needed to pierce the state-mandated cap on property tax levy, the Bridgehampton School District has decided to bring an identical budget back to the public for a second vote on Tuesday, June 17, this time hoping to earn the support needed to keep the school’s programs and personnel in staff.

The Bridgehampton School Board has proposed a $12.3 million budget.

Administrators say the budget, which pierces the cap with a levy increase of $1.1 million, is necessary to keep the school strong and special. It fell short of a supermajority by 36 votes in the first vote May 20.

The vote is from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium. If the budget fails to pass a second time, the district will have to draft a new budget with a 0-percent tax levy increase, requiring an additional $800,500 in spending cuts.

Those cuts, school board member Lillian Tyree-Johnson said, would be “devastating” to the district.

Bridgehampton School Board Will Bring Same Budget Back for Second Vote

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Monasia Street shows off her robot's skills to her classmates during a robotics demonstration at the Bridgehampton School in February. Photo by Michael Heller.

The Bridgehampton School District hopes voters will allow it to pierce the state-mandated tax cap levy so programs like robotics, pictured above, will be saved. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

After the budget fell short of approval by just 36 votes last week, the Bridgehampton Board of Education on Wednesday, May 28,  agreed to present the same $12.3 million budget to voters for a  second vote, on June 17.

“Certainly, while the support of the budget was positive, it wasn’t quite positive enough to get us to be able to pierce the levy limits,” Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre said Wednesday. “In planning the budget, the board considered all possible scenarios. With community support, it decided the only way to move forward successfully was to pierce the cap.”

The 2014-15 budget, a 9.93-percent or $1.1 million increase over last year’s due largely to contractual obligations, required a supermajority of 60 percent because it pierced the state-mandated tax levy cap. With just 247 residents casting ballots, it came in short at just above 54 percent with 134 yes votes and 113 no votes.

Members of the school board were optimistic Wednesday that they could get more parents and other supportive community members out to vote June 17.

“I think it’s a learning experience,” said Ronnie White, president of the school board. “Maybe we should go back to the drawing board and try to get some of the folks, the naysayers, and really educate them on the actual numbers.”

For a homeowner of a $500,000 house, the annual tax bill would be increased by approximately $56 a year if the budget is passed on the second go around.

“We probably need to work harder to get our word out to the public,” Dr. Favre said.

Sag Harbor Voters Pass School Budget; Samot, Kruel and Kolhoff Elected to School Board

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Sandi Kruel celebrates being reelected to the Sag Harbor School Board with Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio and interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso after polls close in the Pierson gymnasium Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Michael Heller.

Sandi Kruel celebrates being reelected to the Sag Harbor School Board with Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio and interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso after polls close in the Pierson gymnasium Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor voters easily passed the school district’s $36.8 million budget for the 2014-15 school year and reelected two incumbents, Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot, and first-time candidate Diana Kolhoff to the Board of Education.

The budget passed by a 72-percent margin, 578 to 222. Turnout was lower than usual with 800 ballots cast, compared to last year’s approximately 1,100.

The budget represents an increase of $1.36 million, or 3.83 percent, in spending from last year.

With a tax levy increase of 1.48 percent, the spending plan came in below the states 1.51 percent tax levy cap for the district, which is determined by district-specific calculations. The total amount of the spending increase to be raised by taxes is $484,543.

For Sag Harbor homeowners of a house valued at $1 million, the monthly tax bill is projected to increase by $5.83 in Southampton and $5.80 in East Hampton.

Under new legislation announced by Governor Cuomo, STAR-eligible homeowners in Sag Harbor will qualify for a rebate. Homeowners are eligible if their house is their primary residence and the owners’ combined annual income is $500,000 or less. Since the district will stay under the New York State mandated tax cap on property taxes, it is allowed to grant a rebate to eligible homeowners in October.

Incumbents Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot congratulate each other on their reelection to the Sag Harbor School Board. Photo by Michael Heller.

Incumbents Sandi Kruel and Theresa Samot congratulate each other on their reelection to the Sag Harbor School Board. Photo by Michael Heller.

 

School Board Elections

In the race for three seats on the Board of Education, incumbents Theresa Samot, Sandi Kruel and newcomer Diana Kolhoff secured positions.

Sag Harbor residents were allowed to vote for three candidates.

Ms. Samot, the current president of the board, came in first with 587 votes, and Ms. Kruel, who will begin her fourth term on the board, came in second with 526 votes.

A newcomer, Ms. Kolhoff earned 503 votes, earning the final position on the school board. With 346 votes, challenger Thomas Ré fell short of securing a seat.

There were also a handful of write-in votes: John Battle had three votes, Stephen Clark had two and Mary Anne Miller, a longtime school board member who decided not to pursue another term, had one write-in vote.

The three seats were left up for grabs by the expiration of Ms. Kruel’s, Ms. Samot’s and Ms. Miller’s three-year terms.

“I’m just so excited,” Ms. Samot said after the results were announced Tuesday night in the Pierson Middle-High School gymnasium. “It’s really, I think, a new chapter in the Sag Harbor School District, with the new superintendent and the building project and all the good things that are happening, the expansion of the IB program.”

“So, I’m just so excited to be part of it and I want to thank the community for their support,” she added.

“I’m excited,” Ms. Kruel said in between hugs with administrators and fellow board members. “I’m excited going forward. I’m excited with what we’ve done and about moving forward with the new superintendent—and making our schools greater than they already are.”

Having moved to Sag Harbor about five years ago, Ms. Kolhoff is new to the school board, but has two daughters attending the Sag Harbor Elementary School. She and her husband, Randy, own Black Swan Antiques.

Ms. Kolhoff worked as a high school math teacher for 12 years and is currently a mathematics education consultant. She trains grade school teachers in best instructional practices and aids them in the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards.

“I got into mathematics because I like solving problems and I’m good at it,” Ms. Kolhoff said at a Meet the Candidates forum earlier this month. “So, if elected, that’s what I would like to do. Whatever problem comes up, let’s figure it out and find a good solution.”

The new board members will begin their three-year terms July 1 and stay on until June 30, 2017.

Bridgehampton School District Voters Say No to Piercing Tax Cap; Mansfield, McCleland Elected to School Board

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Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre congratulates Kathleen McCleland on winning a seat on the Board of Education as board member Larry LaPointe looks on, after polls close in the school gymnasium Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Michael Heller.

Bridgehampton Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre congratulates Kathleen McCleland on winning a seat on the Board of Education as board member Larry LaPointe looks on, after polls close in the school gymnasium Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton residents turned down the Bridgehampton School District’s attempt to pierce the New York State mandated tax levy cap with its 2014-15 budget on Tuesday.

Although the budget passed by a margin of 134 to 113, it failed to gain the 60-percent supermajority required to pierce the cap, coming in short at just above 54 percent. A total of 247 residents cast ballots.

Since the spending plan did not gain the necessary support, the Board of Education will go back to the drawing board, asking voters to return to the polls a second time with either a reduced budget or an identical one. If the second vote fails, the district must adopt a 0-percent tax levy increase, which would force it to adopt last year’s budget and craft a new plan that cuts $1 million from the one proposed.

“It’s disappointing because just to run a vote kicks us in the budget,” Dr. Lois Favre, who is both superintendent and principal for the district, said following the vote.

The $12.3 million budget would have increased spending by $1.4 million, or 9.9 percent. It would have required a $10.6 million tax levy, an 8.8-percent increase that district officials said would amount to an increase of about $56 for the year on the tax bill of a house valued at $500,000.

“We’ll meet as a board and we have to bring the budget back up to the public and hope for a better result next time,” Dr. Favre said.

“It’s disappointing,” agreed Lillian Tyree-Johnson, vice president of the school board.

A proposition on the ballot to provide $160,000 in funding for the Bridgehampton Childcare and Recreation Center was approved by a 157-to-89 vote margin.

 

School Board Elections

Also on Tuesday, Bridgehampton voters elected newcomers Kathleen McCleland and Jeffrey Mansfield to two seats on the school board. Mr. Mansfield received 187 votes, Ms. McCleland received172 and Michael Gomberg came in third with 72 votes.

The positions were left vacant when incumbents Gabriela Braia and Elizabeth Kotz both decided not to run again.

Mr. Mansfield, 49, has been visiting Bridgehampton since he was a child and moved to the district full-time in 2008 after a 17-year career on Wall Street. He now works as a stay-at-home dad to his three children, ages 4, 6 and 7, who all attend Bridgehampton School. He is also active in the community, serving as a member of the Southampton Town Audit Advisory Committee, vice chairman of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee and active in the Bridgehampton School Foundation and the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Little League.

With a mother who worked as a public school teacher for over 30 years, Mr. Mansfield considers himself a “champion of education.”

“I think education is the tool that breaks the cycle of poverty and ignorance,” Mr. Mansfield said during a Meet the Candidates forum in May. “It behooves all of us to have a wonderful school district.”

A Bridgehampton native, Ms. McCleland moved back home in 2004 to start a family. Before that, she spent some time in Manhattan working as a personal chef and in corporate event planning at Goldman Sachs.

Ms. McCleland’s two children now attend the school. She works as the pastry chef for the Beacon and the Bell of Anchor restaurants, of which her husband Sam is chef and co-owner.

“I’m very excited at the prospect of taking on the challenges of the school board,” Ms. McCleland said Tuesday night after the results were announced.

The newcomers’ three-year terms on the school board will start July 1 and run through June 30, 2017.

Sag Harbor School Board Budget Finalized, Parking Still Under Discussion

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Members and mentors of the Pierson Robotics team were among the range of Pierson students recognized at the Sag Harbor School Board's meeting May 6. In addition to the robotics team, recently returned from a national championship, the board congratulated and recognized students who participated in the NYSSMA musical competition, were inducted or are members in the National Honor Society and who performed in last week's production of "Fantasticks," which everyone agreed was "fantastic." Photo by Zoe Vatash.

Members and mentors of the Pierson Robotics team were among the range of Pierson people recognized at the Sag Harbor School Board’s meeting May 6. In addition to the robotics team, recently returned from a national championship, the board congratulated and recognized students who participated in the NYSSMA musical competition, were inducted or are members in the National Honor Society and those who performed in last week’s production of “Fantasticks,” which everyone agreed was “fantastic.” Photo by Zoe Vatash.

By Tessa Raebeck

In an effort to address questions and inform the public about a $36.8 million proposed budget, the Sag Harbor School Board of Education will bring its 2014-15 budget plan to community forums this month.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso and John O’Keefe, the district’s business administrator, will visit the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The duo will also make a presentation at the Sag Harbor Elementary School following morning program on Wednesday at 9 a.m., again that day at 2:30 p.m. in the Pierson Middle-High School library and at 3:30 p.m. in the elementary school library. While the latter two sessions have been scheduled for staff, school board vice president Chris Tice said Tuesday that members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend any of the presentations.

This year, the average proposed school tax increases in New York are dropping below 2 percent for the first time in over 40 years, with an average of 1.83 percent on Long Island and 2.01 percent statewide, according to Newsday, due to the pressures of a state-mandated cap on the property taxes a school district can levy.

Some expenses, such as employee pension costs, are exempt from the calculations, so each district’s individual cap limit varies, based on those exemptions and other factors like voter-approved construction costs.

For Sag Harbor, the tax levy cap is lower than average at 1.51 percent.

The proposed 2014-15 budget has a tax levy increase of 1.48 percent, with an increase of $1,360,881 or 3.83 percent in spending from last year. The monthly impact on a house valued at $1 million is projected to be an increase of $5.83 in Southampton and $5.80 in East Hampton.

“This budget is the result of some key strategic planning that has gone on over the years,” said BOE member Daniel Hartnett at a budget hearing Tuesday night. “You can’t get to this point—with, frankly, low budget numbers, preservation of staff, preservation of program, in fact, some incremental building—without strategic planning.”

The budget and school board vote, for which all registered voters in the school district can cast ballots, is Tuesday, May 20, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Pierson gymnasium. On Thursday, May 8, at 7 p.m. the district will also host a candidates forum in the elementary school gym. There are three school board seats up for election. Incumbents Theresa Samot and Sandi Kruel are seeking re-election with Diana Kolhoff and Thomas Re also vying for seats.

In other school news, several board members who served on the Educational Facilities Planning Committee again brought up the issue of parking. At its last meeting, the board voted to move forward with a parking plan that would add minimal spaces, compromising with a group of residents and Pierson neighbors who were worried the original plans would encroach on Pierson Hill, discourage alternative modes of transportation and ruin their view.

Board member Susan Kinsella asked the board to consider going with a larger option, but having half asphalt parking and half “grass parking,” referencing a presentation on Eco-Raster, a permeable paver that is a green alternative to asphalt, that Gordon Herr made to the board in March.

“I just think it’s a wiser plan, I think it’s more responsible,” said Ms. Kinsella, adding the plan would increase parking while sustaining the green vista.

“I think when the community truly realizes that you’re spending $220,000 to lose 10 parking spots to make it pretty, it’s not what they voted for. Sorry,” added Trustee Sandi Kruel.

Under the current plan, seven spaces would be lost in the Jermain Avenue parking lot, with the potential of adding three, pending the relocation of a tree. Ten spaces would be added at the Division Street lot by filling in the tree wells there, so the net gain of the entire project is three to six spots.

“At the end of the day, those members [of the community] should have been there for the last three years, not the last three minutes,” Ms. Kruel said.

Ms. Kinsella and Ms. Kruel, adamant that the committee they served on had intended to increase parking, asked the board to consider the half grass, half asphalt plan.

Mr. O’Keefe said in addition to bidding the smaller lot as the primary, they could “bid the green as an alternative” and “see how that would work out.”

“I think that would do wonders on building a bridge back to the center on this very difficult discussion for many, many years,” said Mary Anne Miller, a longtime board member.