By Christine Sampson
The Bridgehampton School District’s 2017-18 budget plan garnered comfortable community support on Tuesday, with residents voting 102 to 74 in favor of the proposal.
Incumbent school board member Kathleen McCleland won reelection with 136 votes. Markanthony Verzosa, a newcomer, had 116. There were two write-in votes, one each for Anthony White and Marjorie Goldberg.
During budget presentations over the last several months, school officials said the $14.36 million spending plan preserves all programs and services and even expands staffing and programs in some areas.
“Thank you to the Bridgehampton community,” Bridgehampton superintendent Dr. Lois Favre said after the results were announced Tuesday.
The 2017-18 budget plan, which included a 5.54-percent tax levy increase, needed only a simple majority to pass on Tuesday. The tax levy increase is higher than the typical “2 percent” language that many people are accustomed to because of factors such as extensive real estate development within the school district’s borders.
Even with the tax levy increase, school officials project taxes will decrease slightly — about $35 less next year for the average Bridgehampton homeowner with a house valued at $2 million.
The community also approved a separate proposition, 84-41,that will repurpose a previously established capital reserve fund into the “Geothermal and Five-Year Capital Plan Reserve Fund.” That will allow the district to set aside money for the proposed geothermal heating and cooling system the district hopes to build along with its upcoming expansion and renovation project, as well as for basic capital improvement projects.
“It feels good to pass this,” school board president Ronnie White said Tuesday, referring to both the budget and the separate proposition. “Onward and upward. I believe we are doing exceptionally well at being fiscally responsible for taxpayers all while creating a challenging atmosphere for our students.”
According to information provided by Robert Hauser, Bridgehampton’s assistant superintendent for finance and facilities, the 2017-18 budget includes more money for replacing old physical education equipment, materials and supplies and for upgrading desktop computers and replacing iPads that are nearing the end of their five-year useful life spans.
Mr. Hauser said spending on teachers’ salaries would decrease slightly due to the retirement of one teacher and the hiring of a new teacher at about half the cost of the retiring teacher’s salary. The budget includes increases for employees’ medical and dental insurance, which is rising by 6.2 percent to about $1.9 million. Spending on extracurricular activities will decrease by 11 percent, or about $12,400, because “we have adjusted the amount to reflect the actual extracurricular student activities, clubs, and class stipends for the next school year,” Mr. Hauser said.
With 176 ballots cast, voter turnout on Tuesday was lower than in May 2016, when the district successfully pierced the state-imposed cap on tax levy increases with an 8.7-percent tax levy increase that garnered more than 67 percent voter approval. Last year, 239 residents turned out to vote, with 161 supporting the budget.