Bridgehampton School Board Faces Slim Budget Options

The Bridgehampton School. . STEPHEN J. KOTZ

When voters on May 18 defeated the Bridgehampton School District’s proposed $20.66 million budget by the slimmest of margins, it left the School Board with few options. It can ask voters to approve the same budget or it can submit an amended version — usually with cuts in spending — for a revote on June 15.

The board had planned to discuss those options and schedule the required second hearing on the budget when it met on Wednesday, May 26. That meeting took place too late for this week’s edition.

The initial proposed budget would have pierced the state tax cap, which limited the district to a 1.23-percent increase in the tax levy this year, by calling for an 8.9 percent hike in the tax levy and an 8.8 percent increase in spending. Although voters supported the budget by a 150-103 majority, a super majority of 60 percent is required for budgets that exceed the tax cap. The budget would have passed if five more people had voted for it or if two of the no votes had been reversed.

To meet the spending cap, the district would have been required to shave $970,974 from the proposed budget, but district officials have said that would have been impossible to do without seriously affecting programming because the district has been forced to earmark an additional $740,000 in special education costs and $650,000 in additional staff members, including custodians for the newly expanded school building.

If the budget falls a second time, Jennifer Coggin, the district’s business manager, said the district would have to adopt a contingency, or austerity, budget, that would require cutting about $1.4 million in spending and suspend all extracurricular programs, including sports and tutoring help, for the entire school year.

“Our budget advisory committee, our administrative staff, and our board have worked very diligently to come up with a responsible proposition for our taxpayers,” said School Board President Ronald White. He added that he was confident that if enough taxpayers listen to the district’s presentation, they will be convinced the spending plan is justified.

“It is important for every community to have a thriving school district,” Mr. White said, adding that those who support education have to be willing to come out to vote.