Tag Archive | "school budgets"

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.

Sag Harbor School District’s Proposed Budget Won’t Pierce Tax Cap

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By Tessa Raebeck

Unlike budgets proposed in East Hampton and Bridgehampton, the Sag Harbor School District’s proposed 2014-15 budget does not pierce the state-mandated tax cap.

In a second presentation of the full budget on Monday, administrators proposed spending of $36.87 million, an increase of $1.36 million or 3.83 percent over the 2013-14 budget.

The tax cap, established by the state in 2011, prohibits school districts from raising property taxes by more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This year, that cap has been set at the rate of inflation, 1.51 percent. The district budget calls for a tax levy increase of 1.48 percent, which is just below the cap.

The budget nearly doubles, to $75,500, the amount set aside for “public information” and postage. Only $38,505 was set aside for that purpose in the current fiscal year.

That increase is in part due to $30,000 being earmarked for improving online communications, whether by expanding the role of the public relations firm Syntax Communications or hiring an in-house webmaster responsible for managing the website, social media and other online tools.

A survey of over 600 students, parents and staff conducted by the district’s Communications Committee found that all parties preferred getting communications online, but the website and other portals were lacking information, disorganized and not regularly updated.

Technology spending increases by 20 percent under the proposed budget. The $95,009 would fund an ongoing initiative to replace computers and Smart Boards, upgrading the wireless network and for the purchase of iPads, Google Chromebooks and MacBooks for classroom use.

An increase of $4,000 is budgeted for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters mentoring program, recently reinstated by the national organization.

Addressing the need for increased math instruction required under the state’s Common Core Learning Standards—as well as the difficulty many students and parents have had with the new math standards—the district is considering adding a math lab. The budget draft includes $40,000 to hire a teacher who would work 60 percent of full time, to supplement a full-time staff member in the lab. “So that way the lab has a teacher all the time,” School Business Administrator John O’Keefe said Tuesday.

The board will vote on the budget at its April 23 meeting. The community budget vote and school board elections are Tuesday, May 20, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Pierson gymnasium. Applications to run for school board can be found in the district clerk’s office and must be submitted by Monday, April 21, at 5 p.m.

Bridgehampton School District to Pierce Tax Cap

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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 Board of Education has decided to pierce the tax levy cap to save programs like robotics, which enables students like Monasia Street, above, to learn about technology. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

In a third and final presentation of the 2014-15 budget before it is adopted April 23, the Bridgehampton Board of Education unanimously decided to pierce the mandated state tax cap in order to salvage its programs, curriculum and staff.

After Superintendent and Principal Dr. Lois Favre presented several options to the school board on March 26, each with different spending increases and the corresponding cuts that would be required, the board decided to move forward with a 9.93 percent spending increase, which is 4.46 percent over the district’s allowable tax levy limit.

If Bridgehampton voters pass the budget, it would increase the tax bill on a $500,000 house by $56.64 for the year, an amount that costs “less than one latte a week,” Dr. Favre reminded those in the room.

The final budget removes the “wish list” items, mainly for technology advances, staff development and curriculum work, from the original budget draft, but allows for overtime. No staff positions or programs would be lost, but some programs will still have to be reduced, said Dr. Favre, such as the homework club, which will now run three days a week, rather than four.

The proposed spending for the 2014-15 school year is $12.33 million, an increase of $1.11 million over last year’s budget, largely due to contractual salary and benefit increases. The proposed tax levy increase of $909,781 would be $429,023 over the levy limit.

At a community forum on the budget March 5, those in attendance were unanimous in their opinion that the school district needed to pierce the cap if it were to continue providing Bridgehampton’s kids with a decent education.

The forum, Dr. Favre said, showed those residents’ “belief that actual dollar amounts are negligible compared to what could be lost if cuts are made too deeply.”

Dr. Favre also noted that the district is actually spending less than in previous years. The budget Bridgehampton originally proposed in 2010-2011 is higher than what is being proposed four years later.

“So, we’ve been doing what they asked, we’ve been making the necessary cuts,” Dr. Favre said last week.

“Each budget is only a cut for that school year,” she added. “The deeper the cuts, the harder it is to get the programs and people put back in.”

The school board agreed the 9.93 percent increase was the best option, providing a good balance between preserving programs without substantially increasing residents’ tax bills.

Douglas DeGroot, a member of the school board, said if the district could no longer support itself and had to close, the school taxes for Bridgehampton’s residents would go up, so piercing the tax cap now is the cheaper option in the long run.

“You can’t have a school district without a school,” said Mr. DeGroot. “So, we will become a part of somebody else’s and if we become a part of Sag Harbor—which is the closest and makes the most sense—the school portion of our tax bill, which is the majority of our tax bill, will treble here.”

A public budget hearing will be held May 7 at 7 p.m. at the Bridgehampton School.

Sag Harbor School District Offers Early Retirement Incentives

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By Tessa Raebeck

Prior to Tuesday’s board meeting, Sag Harbor School District Business Administrator John O’Keefe presented a review of the entire draft of the 2014-2015 budget to the board.

At its meeting March 10, the board approved an agreement made with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor to enact an undisclosed early retirement incentive for teachers who retire from the district and are also eligible to retire from the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System on June 30, 2014.

The New York State guidelines require teachers to have worked for at least 30 years and be 55 or older or to have worked for at least 20 years and be 62 or older in order to not have benefits reduced upon retirement.

Mr. O’Keefe said with the early retirement incentive, there are a few projected retirements that reduce the budget lines from drafts presented at earlier meetings.

“These are people that we’ve identified already that have suggested they’d be leaving at the end of the year,” Mr. O’Keefe said.

Those projected retirements would provide for a reduction of $281,313 in teacher salaries and, when combined with others, an additional reduction of $60,708 paid to the state for employees and teacher retirement. Teachers receive retirement benefits from the state, not the district, and the district pays into that system based on its current salaries, not its retired teachers.

“So, if salaries go down, my retirement expenses go down because they’re a direct correlation to the total salaries,” Mr. O’Keefe said.

Reduced by $523,496 from earlier drafts, the proposed budget calls for $36.79 million in spending, a 3.62-percent increase over the 2013-2014 school year, which had a budget of $35.51 million.

“Because of the work over the last four or five years that the district has done with planning, we’re in a very favorable position,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “We may be the only district on the island that hasn’t had to reduce staff specifically for the purpose of balancing a budget.”

The second review of the budget will take place before the next board meeting, on April 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the Pierson Library. The regular meeting will follow at 7:30 p.m. The final budget hearing is May 6 and the annual budget vote is May 20.

Employee Benefits Account for a Quarter of Expenses in Sag Harbor School District Budget

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By Tessa Raebeck

On Monday, Sag Harbor School District administrators presented a draft of the last major component of the 2014-2015 budget to the Board of Education (BOE), which included projected expenses for the two school buildings, Pierson Middle/High School and Sag Harbor Elementary School (SHES), BOCES services and employee benefits.

Pierson principal Jeff Nichols said items that fall under the discretion of himself and SHES principal Matt Malone (those not related to contractual obligations like salary and healthcare) come to a 0.77-percent increase. He said the principals go “line by line” with teachers, and, after the budget is passed, each teacher has an individual meeting with their respective administrator “where they justify every single recommendation they’ve submitted to the district to purchase.”

“We’re pleased with the way that process has gone once again this year,” said Mr. Malone. “Everybody on staff is continuing to do an outstanding job on scrutinizing our discretionary spending and allowing us to maintain excellent programming.”

School salaries, equipment, contractual costs such as field trips or the rights to a play, and supplies are projected to increase by 5.5 percent next year, from $11,364,070 to $11,989,648.

Parent Alison Scanlon, who has voiced her disapproval of not having an in-house summer school program at previous board meetings, asked Mr. Nichols about that component of the budget.

“If we have the numbers sufficient to indicate that it would be in our benefit to run something in house here, we would do so,” Mr. Nichols replied, adding they are in the tentative planning stage of running a program for Common Core math, which a number of students have struggled with.

District wide benefits represent over 25 percent of the entire budget year-to-year, said school business administrator John O’Keefe. Thus, a significant portion “of our expenditures is going to expenses that we don’t really have any control over what the increase is going to be,” he said.

District wide employee benefits, including items like social security, retirement and health insurance, are proposed to increase by 7.41 percent, from $8,806,898 in 2013-2014 to $9,459,205 in 2014-2015.