Bridgehampton Outlines Need To Pierce Cap At Budget Forum

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The Bridgehampton School District will ask voters to allow it to pierce New York State's tax cap this year. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Bridgehampton School District officials outlined on March 10 a proposed $20.5 million budget that would pierce the New York State tax cap by $1,077,404 and a require a super majority vote of 60 percent when voters go to the polls on May 18. Spending would increase by about 8 percent under the proposed budget.

Two factors have weighed heavily on the budget for the coming year. The first is that the state tax cap, which is based on the Consumer Price Index, a broad federal measurement of inflation, is only 1.23 percent this year, the lowest in five years. That means the district would have to limit any spending increase to only $456,238 to remain under the cap.

A second factor affecting the bottom line is the increased cost of operating the district during the coronavirus pandemic. Additional expenses have ranged from the need for more custodial workers to clean the building regularly, extra teachers to teach smaller classes, and modular offices used to provide space for staff members to teach remotely.

Jennifer Coggin, the district’s business administrator, told the gathering of officials at a budget workshop that the district’s budget advisory committee had already trimmed nearly $666,000 from an initial proposed budget by removing a number of expenditures related to dealing with the virus, including eliminating as many as nine temporary teaching positions and one teacher’s aide. But those savings assume the district will be able to ease in September the required 6-foot social distancing guidelines now in place, Ms. Coggin said.

Other added costs for the coming year include an estimated $405,000 increase for maintenance. That includes $90,000 in staff and supplies to fight the pandemic, $100,000 in maintenance costs for the district geothermal heating system; an estimated $75,000 hike in electricity costs, related to the opening of the major addition, and $75,000 to paint the front entrance and cupola.

Another major component is a $640,000 proposed hike in special education, including $340,000 to send students to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, three additional staff members, including one in elementary school, one in high school, and one in a local private school, as required by the state law.

The district will spend $181,000 more for insurance, including about $166,000 for health insurance and $186,000 in fund transfers, including about $150,000 for technology and $28,000 to meet a state mandate to provide student lunches over the summer months.

Ms. Coggin said that the budget, which would typically include a $600,000 fund balance transfer to reduce the tax rate, would only see a $400,000 transfer this year because the district was forced to spend extra money from that fund as it battled COVID-19 this year.

On the plus side, the district stands to see about $150,000 in increased state aid if the building project, which has been plagued by pandemic-related delays, can be completed by July 1. That seems unlikely, though, as the district has been forced to keep using several portable classroom buildings during the pandemic, and those buildings have been slated for demolition as part of the expansion.

In a separate presentation highlighting student achievement, Superintendent Robert Hauser noted that 52 percent of the student body is Latino, 25 percent white, 17 percent Black, and 7 percent listed as other. More than 50 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged, 26 percent are learning English, and 23 percent have disabilities.

Superintendent Search

The Bridgehampton School District is asking community members to take part in a brief survey posted on its website that is seeking input on the selection of a new superintendent to replace Mr. Hauser, who is leaving at the end of the school year. The survey can be found at bridgehamptonschool.com under the heading “Recent News and Announcements and Quick Links.” Paper copies of the survey are available in the district’s administrative office. The deadline for submitting the survey is April 2.

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