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.
“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.”