Officials at Sagaponack's little red schoolhouse are asking district voters to greenlight a proposed budget of $1.73 million, which despite having a year-over-year spending increase of just $27,572 is above the New York State cap on tax-levy increases.
"Dealing with the many uncertainties brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, this budget will continue to support the quality instructional program that the Sagaponack School is known for and our Sagaponack community truly appreciates," Alan Van Cott, the district superintendent, said in an email this week.
Sagaponack was the only South Fork school district that did not have any cases of Covid-19 among children or adults on campus this year, according to the School Covid Report Card, an online database maintained by the New York State Department of Health.
"Expenses related to Covid-19 and new entrants" among the student population are the driving factors behind the coming year's cost fluctuations, Mr. Van Cott said.
Of note in the spending plan is a 27 percent increase in salaries for part-time teachers, up to $129,558. "This reflects potential costs if we need to offer our second and third-grade program off-site," the superintendent said. Because of the pandemic, Sagaponack's eldest children now attend class at the Most Holy Trinity school in East Hampton.
The district plans to buy more materials to support the psychological services it offers to its students, adding $2,400 into the budget. More money is also being allocated for technology instruction and computer equipment.
Unlike nearly every other local school district, Sagaponack's spending on employee benefits is likely to decrease. The budget takes into account a reduction of $9,825 for health insurance costs, or about 6.6 percent.
Because of its small size, Sagaponack doesn't receive a significant amount of state money, which means it is somewhat more dependent on property taxes and other sources of revenue. The proposed tax levy of $1.4 million represents a 9.68 percent increase, which needs at least 60 percent voter approval in order to pass.
Also on the ballot will be two propositions to renew instructional contracts with the Sag Harbor School District, one for grades four through six and one for grades seven through 12, for four years each. Contracts with the East Hampton and Bridgehampton School Districts were approved by voters last year.
Sagaponack will hold an in-person budget hearing on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Members of the community can sign up to attend it by emailing [email protected] or by phoning in using the number provided on the school website, sagaponackschool.com. The vote will take place on the night of May 18, from 7:30 to 8:30.
This story has been updated to correct the Sagaponack School's polling hours.