Sag Harbor School District Proposes $41.88M Budget for 2018-19

Historical budget trends in Sag Harbor. Graph by Chris Lester; source data from Sag Harbor School District.

Sag Harbor Budget At-a-Glance

2018-19 Proposal: $41,880,896

Year-over-year increase: $1,973,786

Projected East Hampton Town tax increase: $188 (house valued at $1.12 million)

Projected Southampton Town tax increase: $147 (house valued at $1 million)

Proposed tax levy increase: 3.51 percent

Tax cap limitation: Below the allowable tax cap

On the table in the Sag Harbor School District is a $41.88 million spending plan with a proposed year-over-year spending increase of 4.95 percent and proposed tax levy increase of 3.51 percent.

According to documents provided by the school district, security is a big priority for the district. A line-by-line budget plan shows an increase of about $300,000 for what school business administrator Dr. Philip Kenter described in an email to The Sag Harbor Expressas “anticipated confidential security measures” that the district is currently discussing, comprised of both technology and staffing measures.

During public presentations over the last several months, school officials said the proposed budget maintains current programs at Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle-High School while expanding opportunities for learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. School officials have said the level of staffing “meets needs of [the] special education population.” Professional development is included for teachers in both buildings to help increase their effectiveness with students. At Pierson, a part-time English teacher’s position would be extended full-time. The schools would spend less on textbooks while investing more in “computer aided instruction,” which refers to the use of technology and software to supplement learning.

The Sag Harbor School Board had the ability to raise its tax levy by as much as 4.02 percent, but chose to go lower after board members said they wanted to send a positive message of fiscal responsibility to the community. The final proposal of 3.51 percent is still higher than the “2 percent tax cap” language that people are used to hearing because of factors unique to Sag Harbor, such as bustling real estate development within the district’s borders and exclusions to the tax cap calculations for certain capital projects.

Sag Harbor’s proposed budget breaks down into 8.1 percent administrative costs, 79.7 percent educational costs and 12.2 percent capital costs, about even with the current year’s budget.

Depending on where in Sag Harbor a taxpayer lives, he or she will be affected by differing East Hampton and Southampton town tax rates. The tax rate in East Hampton Town is projected to increase by about 3.5 percent, while the tax rate in Southampton Town is projected to increase by about 3.08 percent. In the Southampton section of the school district, a resident with a house valued at $1 million can expect to see a tax increase of about $147 for the year. In the East Hampton area, a resident with a similarly valued house can expect to see a tax increase of about $188.

School Bus Ballot Proposition

The Sag Harbor School District is also asking voters to weigh in on shrinking the current eligibility limit for students who are given access to school bus transportation. Whereas the existing requirement is that a student must live one mile or more from the school in order to receive busing, the proposition offers voters the option to decide to reduce that one-mile distance to half a mile. There is no estimated annual monetary impact of this proposal for the 2018-19 school year, according to the school district.

School Board Candidate Race Uncontested

Two candidates are running for two seats on the school board, making Sag Harbor’s school board race a rare, uncontested one. Susan Schaefer, a branch manager and vice president of Bridgehampton National Bank, is an incumbent candidate who was appointed in January to fill the vacancy created when Tommy John Schiavoni was elected to the Southampton Town Board last year. The other candidate is Jordana Sobey, a corporate attorney who is also a board member of Goat on a Boat at Bay Street. Sitting Sag Harbor School Board member Stephanie Bitis chose not to seek reelection, citing the desire to spend more time with her family.

In case of a failed budget vote…

If residents reject their school district’s budget, school officials have three options. They may choose to put the same budget up for a re-vote, or may present a modified budget for a re-vote. If that occurs, the re-vote would happen on Tuesday, June 19. A third option is to go to a contingency budget right away, without a re-vote. A contingency budget mandates a zero-percent tax levy increase and restricts the way schools can buy equipment, lend its facilities to the public and other actions. A budget vote that fails a second time then mandates that a school district goes down to a contingency budget. “Contingency is not a pleasant thing for a school district to endure,” said Dr. Philip Kenter, Sag Harbor school business administrator.


Tuesday, May 15

7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Pierson Middle-High School gymnasium