New Revenue Will Cushion The Blow, But New Bridgehampton School District Budget Would Still Pierce Tax Cap

The Bridgehampton School. . STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Voters in the Bridgehampton School District will be asked to approve a $20.66 million budget that pierces the state tax levy cap in a revote on Tuesday, June 15. Spending will remain the same as the budget that failed by a narrow margin in May, but district officials said they had found $400,000 in unanticipated revenues that will help rein in the anticipated tax levy increase. Voting takes place from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium.

Because the budget pierces the tax cap, it will require a supermajority of 60 percent to pass. If the budget is voted down, the district will be required to slash spending by nearly $1.5 million and operate under a contingency budget, which would force the cancellation of sports, field trips, academic support, summer camp, and the prekindergarten program, among other things.

The original budget was supported by a 150-103 majority, but that fell less than 1 percent below the 60-percent threshold needed to pass. If two “no” votes had been changed to “yes,” or five more voters had come out in support of the budget, it would have passed.

After the initial budget failed, the School Board decided to submit the same budget for a second vote. It calls for a nearly $1.7 million spending increase, but $740,000 of that is for anticipated special education costs for severely disabled students and $650,000 is earmarked for increased maintenance and operations related to the district’s recently completed addition, including maintenance of a geothermal system, increased custodial staff, and things like higher electricity bills.

Superintendent Robert Hauser and Business Manager Jennifer Coggin discussed the proposed budget at a hearing on Tuesday night and said what had been projected as an 8.9-percent tax levy increase will be reduced to a 6.5-percent increase, thanks to $400,000 in unanticipated revenue the district will receive this fiscal year for educating homeless students.

Ms. Coggin said the district was still hoping to receive a $150,000 boost in state aid for new construction projects and was continuing to look for funding to help defray expenses it occurred during the pandemic. The district did not receive federal aid for those expenses because it is considered too wealthy by federal standards, although most of its students come from low-income families.

Mr. Hauser said he was optimistic the budget would pass on a revote, saying that School Board members were committed to a get-out-the-vote campaign, after last month’s turnout was lower than expected.