Sag Harbor School Budget of $38.7 Million Falls Below Tax Cap

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Sag Harbor voters will be asked next Tuesday to approve a $38.77 million budget that increases spending by 3.25 percent, but stays under the state tax levy cap.

If the budget passes, taxes are expected to rise by 2.83 percent for residents of Southampton Town, to $5.22 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That means the owner of a $1 million house would be taxed $5,219, an increase of $147.70.

In East Hampton Town, which bases its tax rate on a fraction of a property’s total value, the rate would go up by 2.88 percent, to $815.54 per $1,000 of value, but still result in the same $5,219 tax bill, an increase of $146.15.

The district’s total tax levy will rise by 2.98 percent, to $35.07 million, leaving it $74,877 below the state tax cap limit.

“So the budget is below the tax cap and it maintains all our excellent education programs,” said business administrator Jennifer Buscemi during a sparsely attended public hearing on Monday.

Because the budget falls below the tax cap, residents with an income below $275,000 are eligible for a property tax rebate from the state. According to figures released by Ms. Buscemi on Monday, that credit will be $130 for 2016. From 2017 through 2019, if the district remains below the cap, the credit will be based on a percentage of the homeowner’s rebate through the State Tax Relief, or STAR, program, based on income.

“It is basically incentivizing districts to stay under the cap for the next four years,” she said. Ms. Buscemi said the $130 credit for residents who meet the income requirement would essentially offset the tax increase they would see as a result of the budget increase.

“This is really great news for all taxpayers, and especially those on fixed incomes,” said Ms. Buscemi.

The district also expects to see non-tax revenues increase by $85,164, to $1.85 million, with most of that coming in the form of a $64,487 increase in BOCES aid for special services. It also expects to see an additional boost in revenue as a result of a renewed contract with the Sagaponack School District and a new agreement with the Wainscott School District, which will allow parents to tuition students into Sag Harbor for middle and high school. Those projected revenues are not factored into the budget, according to Superintendent Katy Graves, until formal agreements are reached with individual parents.

Total instruction, which includes teacher salaries, accounts for 55.4 percent, or $21.48 million, of the budget, a 2-percent increase over last year. Transportation costs, which are 2.5 percent of the total budget, are expected to rise by more than 19 percent, to $956,740 next year. Inter-fund transfers will jump nearly 37 percent, to $2.39 million, largely because of one-time transfers related to debt service, according to Ms. Buscemi.

The district will also see savings in the form of a $105,673 decrease in employee benefit costs and a $109,567 drop in equipment expenses.

Every presentation made on the budget is available on the school district website at sagharborschools.org.

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