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More Anonymous Donations Roll In for Wainscott School

Thu, 09/07/2023 - 10:19
The Wainscott School
Christine Sampson

Joining the anonymous donor who gave $54,500 last month so the cash-strapped Wainscott School could restore art, music, gym, and technology classes, several more community members have stepped up, collectively giving about $23,000, also anonymously, so the district can add field trips back to the curriculum.

David Eagan, the Wainscott School Board president, announced the “great news” by phone on Tuesday, saying that the school should now be “in good shape” despite the financial crunch created by the failure, twice, of its over-the-tax-cap budget plan earlier this year.

He declined to identify the donors but thanked them for their “gracious” support. “The students are not going to see any changes in the day-to-day operation of the school.”

During an Aug. 30 board meeting, called on short notice, the district also approved a tax anticipation note to borrow money for the first time, and accepted the resignation of Christine Schnell, its business manager.

Taking a tax anticipation note, called a TAN, is a common short-term borrowing practice among school districts that allows them to operate until property-tax revenue starts to flow in. Wainscott borrowed $1.6 million, which will ultimately cost about $60,000 in interest and bank fees. The district is expected to pay back $600,000 in December and the remaining balance in June.

“Every other school district in New York State uses TANs,” Mr. Eagan said. “The only thing that’s extraordinary is that we never had one before.”

Ms. Schnell resigned last week because in April she accepted a job with

East Hampton Town as its tax receiver. “The town, at the time, rightfully expressed some concern about a potential conflict of interest between her being tax receiver and being our business manager,” Mr. Eagan noted. “It was always our understanding with the town that she would move on from this job. It would have been a little bit earlier if we didn’t go through this financial uncertainty.”

Enrollment remains relatively stable at the school, with one new student in-house, bringing the total to 24 in kindergarten through fourth grade and one new older student, who has elected to attend the Bridgehampton School on a tuition-paid basis. The district still has five fewer tuition students than it did last year.

There remains one tall task ahead, Mr. Eagan said: helping Wainscott voters understand the district’s complex financial situation by the next budget vote, in May, so that the school can avoid another year of austerity.

“It was a very upsetting few months, but we’ve worked through the problems and we’re optimistic,” he said. “We’re left now with an educational process with the community, so they understand what’s going on.”


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