Bridgehampton School District officials have heeded the suggestions of parents and added the salary for another new teacher to their proposed 2019-2020 budget plan. The salary of another administrator, the “director of curriculum,” is still included, but a school official this week said the hiring of that person may not actually take place.
During a school board meeting last Wednesday, March 27, officials also said the district’s existing roster of administrators does not represent an increase over what it had prior to the retirement of Dr. Lois Favre, the previous superintendent and principal.
Bridgehampton’s updated budget plan, for $18.6 million, has been further trimmed from the $18.73 figure presented earlier in March during a community forum. In January, the district proposed $19.48 million for next year, and has since slashed more than $840,000 from that version. The updated figure presented on March 27 represents a 14.36-percent increase in year-over-year spending, with a projected 10.83-percent tax-levy increase.
That increase falls within the state-mandated cap on tax-levy increases but is different from the “2 percent tax cap” language that people are used to hearing. That’s because of factors such as real estate development within district borders and exclusions for capital debt in the tax levy calculations. Nearly half of the projected budget-to-budget increase is for the capital debt on the $29.4 million construction project the district has undertaken.
Bridgehampton is now budgeting for a new technology teacher in addition to the math and science teachers it had already proposed hiring. The salaries for all three would be approximately $62,000 plus benefits.
“We did tweak some numbers based on some information … and some of the discussion that took place,” superintendent Robert Hauser said. “Obviously we are all about our students. We strive to give them the most opportunities we can.”
The “director of curriculum” position is still in the budget, Mr. Hauser said this week.
“However, we’re still contemplating the model — what it’s really going to look like,” he said. “There’s a strong desire on the part of the Board of Education to keep the number of administrators the same, which is five. … We’re working with a curriculum consultant, so that may be part of an option. The continuity there is important.”
He explained during last Wednesday’s meeting the district had five administrators before the departure of Ms. Favre in February of 2018: a superintendent, a principal, plus an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction who served as an assistant principal; a business administrator; and a director of special education and English as a new language (ENL) programs, a position that was held by “a teacher on special assignment.” Four people held those five positions for many years, as Ms. Favre was both superintendent and principal until just before her retirement.
Currently, Mr. Hauser said, the district has a superintendent, a principal, an assistant principal, a business administrator and a dedicated director of special education and ENL. Five people now hold those five jobs, and the teacher on special assignment has returned to teaching full-time.
He also said the district is doubling the amount of surplus moneys it is putting back into the budget this year to offset expenses.
The board meets next on April 17 and expects to adopt the budget proposal that evening. The budget vote and trustee elections are May 21.
Ahead of Schedule with Some Money to Spare
The Bridgehampton School Board heard some good news last Wednesday about the major capital project the district has undertaken, which will add 35,440 square feet and more than double the size of the existing building.
John Grillo, the Port Jefferson-based architect overseeing the $29.4 million expansion and renovation project, reported Wednesday the contractors are actually slightly ahead of schedule.
“The winter cooperated, for the most part,” he said. “I don’t want to jinx us, but we haven’t had many delays.”
Mr. Hauser reported the project is also expected to come in between $500,000 and $800,000 under the total budget, which means the district would have the ability to pay off a chunk of its debt earlier than anticipated. He said the final cost of construction is expected to be $28.6 million, which includes an 18-percent contingency cushion in case costs escalate unexpectedly. It also includes more than $1 million in reserve moneys, an expenditure that voters approved last May, for repairs and improvements not specifically covered in the bond project.
However, board member Jennifer Vinksi asked the superintendent a question: is the project actually over budget, according to the bids it awarded? She pointed out the original sum of the contracts awarded was lower. The Expressreported in October of 2018 the district awarded contracts for a total of about $25.07 million for general contracting, plumbing, electrical work and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. At that point, after soft costs such as architectural and engineering fees, there was a projected “safety net,” as Mr. Grillo called it, of about $1.8 million.
Mr. Hauser told Ms. Vinski he would confirm the contractsand report back to the board.