Bridgehampton School Trims Budget, Plans Community Forum

The Bridgehampton School is a K-12 school on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. Christine Sampson photo

Bridgehampton School District officials have trimmed their proposed 2019-2020 budget to bring it below the limit of the state-mandated cap on tax levy increases, according to a presentation made to the Bridgehampton School Board on Wednesday, February 27.

School business administrator Melisa Stiles said the district’s Budget Advisory Committee took a deeper dive and cut the spending plan to $18.73 million, which is down more than 3.8 percent from the $19.47 million shown in an early budget draft in January.

The school board reacted favorably to the updated budget, though it will reserve finalizing it until April 17. That gave the board time to hear residents’ comments during a community forum on March 6, and also gives it time to receive updated assessment information from Southampton Town — which impacts the district’s tax levy — as well as updated state funding numbers from the New York State Legislature, which will approve its budget in early April.

The updated budget plan represents a nearly 15-percent increase in year-over-year spending above the current year’s budget of $16.3 million, but still fits within the state-mandated cap on tax-levy increases.

The “2-percent tax cap,” as it’s usually called, allows districts some extra room for debt on capital projects, which Bridgehampton has taken on through the nearly $30-million expansion and renovation project it has under way. Of the proposed $2.43-million budget increase, about $1.1 million can be attributed to new debt on the construction project.

Bridgehampton’s proposed tax-levy increase has not been finalized yet, as the assessment and state aid numbers will figure into that percentage, and the district still awaits that data from Southampton Town and New York State, respectively. Bridgehampton can also choose to apply some of its reserve funds toward the budget. The tax impact on the residents can fluctuate based on those factors.

In January, based on the estimated tax levy information the district did have, school officials told the board the proposal was about $66,655 over the cap. Since then, the Budget Advisory Committee cut more than $750,000 when it reexamined the district’s needs.

In an email on Friday, school superintendent Robert Hauser said, “We ‘trimmed’ an out-of-district tuition expenditure that allowed our budget to come down within the tax cap limitation.”

Ms. Stiles told the board last Wednesday the district still expects spending just under $343,000 more for students with special needs, including staffing, services, out-of-district tuition and transportation. The district is also budgeting almost $265,000 for increases in health insurance, $126,550 to hire new math and science teachers and more than $173,500 for additional busing for the general student body.

The district also has $373,370 in next year’s budget for the full salaries of the three new administrators it hired this year: an assistant principal, a director of curriculum and instruction and an administrator to oversee special education and English as a new language program. Their salaries had less of an impact because they were hired mid-year this year.

Registered voters in Bridgehampton will have the chance to vote on the budget — as well as elect two members of the school board — on May 21. The terms of board members Jennifer Vinski and Michael Gomberg expire on June 30. Both Ms. Vinski and Mr. Gomberg said Monday they would be running for reelection.