East Hampton's Tentative $70.9 Million Budget Won’t Pierce Cap

The East Hampton School Board concluded its fourth and final budget workshop on Tuesday still hewing to the expectation it will not pierce the state-mandated cap on tax levy increases in the upcoming school year. The district will now await the precise details of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget by the end of this month to hone its final budget figures.

“Next Tuesday is going to be an important meeting for us,” Richard Burns, the district superintendent, said. “There’s too many variables right now. We’re still not sure exactly what we can afford and what we need to take out” until the state figures are in.

East Hampton assistant superintendent for business, Jerel Cokley, reiterated that the district is still expecting to set a $70.9 million budget and a 1.84-percent tax levy increase or the 2019-20 school year — a budget increase of $1.1 million over this year.

Looking forward, Mr. Cokley said, the district will pay close attention to whether a proposal by Governor Cuomo to permanently cap the tax levy increases at 2 percent is passed, as expected. Mr. Cokley said a combination of factors — a good year for the school’s investments and the mild winter, which has helped keep utilities and snow removal costs down — has left the district in good shape, but a permanent cap would be a challenge for East Hampton, and probably most districts in the state.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle for districts to sustain what they do,” Mr. Cokley said. “But we’re going to be okay. For us, we haven’t come close to piercing the cap.”

In addition to Mr. Cokley, the board also heard departmental budget presentations from Joe Vasile-Cozzo, director of athletics, physical education, and health, Joseph LiPani, the transportation supervisor, and Anthony DeFino, director of facilities. All three said they projected little to no increases in their budgets for next year, and that they were meeting new needs by rearranging where funds were allocated for this year. 

Mr. Vasile-Cozzo said some of his budget had been tweaked to provide for the fact the high school had 34 boys sign up for football. “We’re going to try for jayvee and varsity teams next year,” he said.

The board commended Mr. Tripani at length for the work he and his staff do for the district. Mr. Tripani thanked the board, but deflected the praise back to his staff, insisting, “They make me look good.”
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Correction: The original version of this article had the wrong surname for the district's transportation supervisor. He is Joseph LiPani.