Bridgehampton School Board Adopts $18.69M Budget

A graph showing recent years' budget figures for the Bridgehampton School District. Graph by Chris Lester based on information published by the Bridgehampton School District

The Bridgehampton School Board on Wednesday voted 5-0 to present a spending plan of $18,689,852 for the 2019-2020 school year to the community for a vote on May 21.

The final budget figure represents a 14.68-percent increase in year-over-year spending, with a 10.83-percent tax levy increase proposed. Members Lillian Tyree-Johnson and Douglas DeGroot were absent from Wednesday’s meeting.

While the tax levy increase may appear higher than the 2-percent state-mandated tax levy cap, it actually falls at the tax cap 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 capital debt on the $29.4 million construction project the district has in the works.

School business administrator Melisa Stiles presented the updated budget plan during Wednesday’s school board meeting. She broke down several expenses that are included in the budget: $278,000 more for employee health insurance; $173,517 in additional busing costs; $1,099,122 more for capital debt; $189,825 for the hiring of three new teachers; $248,370 for two administrators’ salaries; and unspecified amounts for contractual salary increases for teachers and other staff. The district is currently negotiating a new contract with its teachers’ union.

School districts are required by New York State to present their budgets in a three-part breakdown of program, capital and administrative costs. For Bridgehampton, programs make up 72.63 percent of the budget, capital expenses make up 16.94 percent and administrative costs make up 10.43 percent of the budget. The administrative part is actually down slightly from the current year’s component of 11.2 percent. By way of comparison, the Sag Harbor School District’s 2019-2020 budget proposes 8.96 percent of its budget for administration and the Southampton School District proposes 8.04 percent for administration, according to those districts’ respective budget documents.

A second ballot proposition in Bridgehampton will ask voters to weigh in on renewing the lease of two separate parcels of land on Montauk Highway on which the school’s farmstand sits. One parcel will not cost the district any money, but the second parcel will cost the district $3,000 per year. The proposed lease is for three years; the district’s existing lease expires in June.

Ms. Stiles also said the hamlet’s total assessment has increased about 8 percent over the last year, up to $8.7 billion. With a 10.83-percent tax levy increase, the proposed $18.69 million budget would yield a tax rate of approximately $1.82 per $1,000 of assessed value on a house in Bridgehampton, up slightly from this year’s tax rate of $1.77 per $1,000.

The budget vote in Bridgehampton is from 2 to 8 p.m. on May 21 in the school gym.

If voters do not approve the budget, Bridgehampton has a few choices: immediately adopt a contingency budget, sometimes called an “austerity budget,” which means the district cannot increase the tax levy at all and purchases of most equipment would be prohibited; put the same budget up for a revote on June 18; or modify the budget plan and put it up for a vote on June 18. A second budget failure means the district automatically goes to a contingency budget for next year.