School Budget, Farmstand Leases Are Approved in Bridgehampton

Incumbent Jennifer Vinski shakes the hand of fellow candidate Randy Davis as he chats with school board president Ron White after she was re-elected following the Bridgehampton School Board election in the gymnasium of the Bridgehampton School on Tuesday night, 5/21/19. Michael Heller photo

Voters in the Bridgehampton School District gave a collective thumbs-up to the school’s $18.69 million 2019-2020 budget on Tuesday, and chose incumbent school board candidate Jennifer Vinski and newcomer Carla Lillie to fill two open seats on the Board of Education.

The second ballot proposition, concerning the two side-by-side Montauk Highway farmstand leases, also passed, coming in at a tally of 167 to 28. One parcel has no fee attached, while the other one will cost the district $3,000 per year for three years.

The budget carries a tax levy increase of 10.83 percent but still falls within the state-mandated cap on tax levy increases. The tax rate is expected to increase by 5 cents, up to approximately $1.82 per $1,000 of assessed value; for a $1-million house, taxes would be about $1,820. Voter approval for the budget was 67 percent. The turnout of 197 voters — 133 for the budget and 64 against — represented an increase over the previous May’s turnout of 144.

Superintendent Robert Hauser thanked the community for turning out “in strong support of the students, the staff and everything that we’re doing at the school.”

“Sixty-seven percent [voter approval] is another indicator of how the community continues to feel about the school and the progress that we’re making both inside and outside,” he said. “Everything looks very promising.”

The school budget proceedings this year took a somewhat contentious turn when a handful of parents, including one school board member, pressed school officials to add more teachers and challenging courses for students instead of adding more administrators. District officials responded in late March by adding a third new teacher, for technology classes, to the budget plan. They later also adjusted the planned administrative role of “director of curriculum” to be a special assignment given to a teacher already on staff.

School officials have said budget increases will also come from debt payments on the nearly $30-million expansion and renovation project currently underway, as well as from rising transportation costs, employee benefits and salaries for the teachers, whose contract is currently under negotiation.

“I’m very excited. Thank you to the stakeholders for coming out,” said Ron White, Bridgehampton’s school board president. “This is just the beginning of a new beginning. The expansion is under way. Assessments are also way, and the board will continuously work to be efficient and be fiscally responsible for our community.”

For the school board, Ms. Vinski earned 135 votes and Ms. Lillie earned 81 votes. Their terms are for three years beginning July 1. Candidates Angela Chmielewski and Michael Gomberg, a sitting board member, both received 54 votes, and Randy Davis received 50 votes.

Ms. Vinski, who has served two previous terms, said she was grateful and overwhelmed by the amount of support she received. “I promise to make sure I do all I can to continue to support the Bridgehampton School,” she said.

Mr. White thanked Mr. Gomberg for his service to the board, saying, “We appreciate him and all of his wonderful work.”