A first draft of the Bridgehampton School District’s proposed 2020-21 budget is about $700,000 over what New York State’s cap on tax levy increases would allow, according to information released during a Jan. 22 school board meeting.
Administrators stressed that it is still early, and they expect that figure to be cut down — particularly when the state budget is finalized in April and school districts learn how much money they will receive from state coffers.
The proposal last week was for $19.39 million, up from this year’s total of $18.6 million. It would carry a budget-to-budget increase of $698,287.
For next year’s school budgets, the state-imposed cap on tax levy increases allows up to a 1.81-percent increase, though schools can also raise their tax levies by an additional percentage that’s known as the “tax base growth factor,” specific to each district. For Bridgehampton, that amounts to another 1.46 percent. Among the factors it takes into account is real estate development in each hamlet or village.
In Bridgehampton, where real estate assessments have risen dramatically in the last several years, that provision has frequently allowed the school district to boost its tax levy above the “2 percent tax cap” that many people are used to hearing about.
“Our goals are that our budget increase target should be below 5 percent and the tax levy increase target should be below 5 percent,” said Melisa Stiles, the school’s business administrator. “Our goal is to not pierce the cap.”
Among the projected increases, Ms. Stiles said, is $221,600 for additional health insurance benefits for staff and retirees, $189,825 to hire three new faculty members to teach in the Advanced Placement program, $38,000 for a part-time art teacher, $40,000 for an additional technical support employee, and $25,000 for new textbooks, including those for the A.P. classes the district is hoping to introduce.
The presentation represented the work of the district’s budget advisory committee, which has been meeting for the past few months and which will continue to meet in the coming months.
Ms. Stiles’s presentation was met with applause from the six members of the school board who were at the meeting.
Ron White, the school board president, said on Monday that he feels the budget draft is realistic. “We are a tad over the cap,” he said. “Unanimously, we hope we do not have to pierce the cap, and we have to be creative. It’s a very fair budget, and the district across the board has been working very diligently to see to it that we are efficient with taxpayer money.”
Another budget presentation is planned for the board’s Feb. 26 meeting. A community forum focused on the budget is tentatively scheduled for March 4.