School Budgets Adopted in Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton

Pierson Middle-High School in the spring of 2017. Christine Sampson photo

Voters in Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton will head to the polls on May 15 to decide on tax-cap-compliant budget proposals: A $41.88 million spending plan in Sag Harbor, where the tax levy increase is proposed at 3.51 percent, and $16.3 million in Bridgehampton, where the tax levy increase is proposed at 13.7 percent.

Those figures fall within the state’s tax cap requirements but are higher than the “2 percent” language most people are used to hearing because of factors like real estate development and commercial growth within each school district’s borders and capital project exclusions that are specific to each district.

Bridgehampton has seen a particularly big boom over the last few years, with a total assessed real estate value in the district of more than $8.12 billion — a 7.5 percent increase from last year alone, and at least the fifth straight year it has jumped significantly. That’s what gives the Bridgehampton School District the ability to raise its tax levy by that much and still only need a simple majority of voter approval to pass its budget.

In Sag Harbor, the school board on April 18 formally adopted a budget higher than its previous estimate of $41.54 million. The year-over-year increase is just under 5 percent. Dr. Philip Kenter, school business administrator, explained the first figure did not yet include the special education or Board of Cooperative Educational Services budgets. “It was a work in progress,” he said Monday.

According to Dr. Kenter, Sag Harbor’s proposed budget maintains all current programs, services and staff positions, and further develops opportunities for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics for students. The middle school assistant principal position would be transformed into a middle school principal position. Security is also a priority in the budget, Dr. Kenter said.

“The big, big thrust for 2018-19, and we’re dedicating money, resources, talent and research to this, is strengthening our safety and security,” he said. Superintendent Katy Graves “has some very, very credible plans that she’s putting together.”

In Bridgehampton, the $16.3 million figure has been presented on several occasions since it was first unveiled as a projection in January, and the school board formally adopted it on April 18. According to documents provided by the district, the year-over-year spending increase is just over 13.5 percent. Included in the budget proposal is $200,000 for new teaching staff, almost $150,000 in increased employee benefit costs and more than $450,000 in additional costs related to special education. The district also officially begins paying off the money it borrowed to finance the upcoming expansion and renovation project, with $988,965 in the budget for debt service.

In the Sag Harbor School District, the impact of a 3.51-percent tax levy increase is different for voters who reside in the town of East Hampton versus the town of Southampton. In East Hampton, a house valued at $1 million can expect to see a tax increase of about $188 for the year, while in Southampton, the same house can expect to see an increase of about $147. The figures vary based on differing assessed values in each town.

In Bridgehampton, for a house valued at $1 million, a 13.7-percent tax levy increase would amount to additional taxes of about $99 for the year.

Bridgehampton will hold a public hearing on the budget on Wednesday, May 2, at 7 p.m. Sag Harbor will hold a hearing on Monday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m.