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Amagansett Ballot Targets Technology

Thu, 04/22/2021 - 07:38
The Amagansett School
Christine Sampson

On the Amagansett School's budget ballot in May will be an $11.9 million spending plan, up 4.7 percent from the current year, plus two  propositions, one seeking voter approval to use $150,000 from a reserve account to renovate the outdoor basketball courts; the other asking for permission to create a new reserve account dedicated to technology and energy upgrades.

The associated tax levy of $10.5 million goes right up to the maximum Amagansett can raise in taxes without piercing the state-imposed cap on increases. Year over year, the district plans to levy $332,662 more in taxes, or a 3.29-percent increase. The rest of the district's revenue comes from state aid, East Hampton Town payments in lieu of taxes on properties such as the Gansett Meadow and St. Michael's housing complexes, and surplus money left over from prior years.

The school board voted on March 23 to add the two propositions and on April 13 to adopt the budget, which, said Seth Turner, the superintendent, "was developed with the core value of ensuring that each child has their academic and social needs met."

"By planning early for budget development [and] maintaining long-term fiscal plans, facility management plans, and curriculum development plans, we are able to make certain that we offer the best possible education for the children of our community," Mr. Turner said.

Among other things, the budget provides for another teacher's aide, a ramped-up summer enrichment program to make up for learning losses experienced during the pandemic, and more musical instruments. According to the district's line-by-line breakdown, costs associated with special education are slated to rise by just under $264,000, while costs associated with general education are projected to decrease by about $240,000. The summer school program will cost the district $21,850 more, up to $73,500. Regarding tuition for secondary students to attend the East Hampton Middle and High Schools, the district is budgeting an even $2 million — which is actually $420,500 less than the current year because of shifting enrollment projections and adjustments to the East Hampton tuition rate.

Both health and psychological services will increase by more than 25 percent, up to $131,720 and $132,312 respectively. The changes are attributed to the need for supplies and to staff salaries that have been adjusted to account for more work, responsibilities, and longevity pay.

Spending on library programs and materials will decrease by $5,800. Technology costs are expected to rise by $43,200, up to $221,500. The employee benefits budget will rise by $263,000, up to $2.54 million.

"I try to keep everything as tight as possible," said Tom Mager, the district treasurer, by phone on Tuesday. "Every year is a little different."

For the first time, substitute custodian hours have been added to the budget, to be performed by bus drivers who help out in between student pickup and dropoff. Maintenance and operational costs are also increasing. "The roof and cupola need some work, so we're budgeting to tackle those projects and capital needs," Mr. Mager said.

Neither of the two propositions would increase taxes, school officials have said. Amagansett already has money available for the basketball court project, and simply needs voter permission to access it. Without a complete renovation, the district "runs the possibility of the courts being shut down for safety reasons," Mr. Mager has said.

For the energy and technology reserve fund, Amagansett needs voter approval to actually transfer money into the account from whatever is unspent in a given school year. In 2021, such a transfer would be limited to $500,000, and no more than $300,000 in subsequent years for a duration of 10 years, up to a maximum balance of $2 million. Specific purposes will be described in the proposition, but school officials have generally said that solar energy, geothermal technology, electric buses, and upgraded computer equipment and fire and alarm systems may be on the horizon.

If voters approve the budget, taxes on a house with an assessed value of $6,000 (corresponding to a fair market value of $1,034,483 on the town's most recent assessment roll) would increase by approximately $61 for the 2021-22 school year, up to about $1,981.

The district will hold its official budget hearing on May 11 at 5 p.m.


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