The Bridgehampton School District’s proposed budget ensures “the best possible program for our students while being mindful of our responsibility to the taxpayers to be fiscally accountable,” said Mary T. Kelly, the superintendent, in discussing the $21.74 million spending plan that voters will see on the May 16 ballot for the next school year.
The plan complies with New York State’s tax-cap rules, with a 3.24-percent tax-levy increase that accounts for real estate growth within district borders and other factors specific to Bridgehampton. Because of that, the district needs only a simple majority of approval to pass the budget.
After several years of uncertainties — including Covid-19 and its associated costs, and three years in which voters narrowly approved over-the-tax-cap budgets — the district’s finances are stable, Dr. Kelly said on Tuesday.
Impacting the coming year’s budget are some of the same issues other school districts and municipalities are facing: high inflation, a jump in utility costs, skyrocketing health insurance, rising interest rates on routine annual borrowing, contractual cost-of-living pay raises for employees, cybersecurity measures, and lingering program and mental health needs tied to students’ well-being after the pandemic.
The latter item is still “an area of focus for us,” Dr. Kelly said. “The budget has been built to support all of that.”
Administrative spending is set to decrease slightly, making up about 11.3 percent of the budget (down from 11.8 percent). Spending on capital needs, maintenance, and operations makes up about 7.6 percent of the budget (down from 8 percent). The rest of the plan is called “program” expenses — including teachers’ salaries, classroom materials, textbooks, supplies, field trips, student clubs, busing, and sports — which will rise almost a full percentage point, up to 81 percent.
School taxes on a house with a fair market value of $1 million would rise by an estimated $64 for the year, or about $5.33 per month.
Should the budget fail to gain enough support in May, a revote would be held in June. A second failed vote means that a contingency plan of $21.16 million would take effect, requiring about $576,000 in spending cuts.
A public hearing on the budget will take place on Wednesday, at 7 p.m., in the school gym.