School budgets will be decided, yea or nay, on Tuesday throughout the state. And on the South Fork, as with other places, ongoing economic insecurities coupled with mandated benefits and other increases have caused concern and consternation across districts.
In East Hampton voters will consider a proposed district budget of $64.4 million, which, according to Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri, is $585,346 less than the state-recommended contingency (or austerity) budget. The budget translates to an estimated tax increase of 5.89 percent (due mostly to mandated items like retirement funds and personnel costs, along with a debt service of $5.6 million) or $2.56 per $100 of assessed value.
Although the 2011-12 budget, compared to last year, shows a decrease of .56 percent, the budget has still almost doubled in a decade, causing fractious board meetings and continual concern among board members and the public alike over ways to bring costs down in future years. A group, Residents and Taxpayers for Representation, has recently formed, and will hold its second meeting on Monday at Ashawagh Hall, the day before the budget and candidate vote.
In East Hampton, the voting will be in the high school auditorium from 1 to 8 p.m.
Springs has had ups and downs during this year’s budget preparation season, which ended on an up note due to the new tuition agreement with the East Hampton district. That contract, which will be in the form of a proposition on the ballot, offers a new agreement to educate Springs high schoolers with savings to be realized by Springs of about $3.2 million during the next four years.
The 2011-12 budget is $24.85 million, an increase of $1.4 million over this year’s budget. This translates into a 5.8-percent tax rate increase, or an additional $4.73 per $100 of assessed value. Owners of a house assessed at $600,000, for example, would pay an additional $289 in school taxes next year.
Although the budget picture for Springs looks better than it did when the board first began going over the numbers, there seems to be mounting opposition to the budget, with at least one group, the Springs Homeowners Alliance, working to bring out the no votes on Tuesday.
If the budget is not approved on Tuesday, the board has an opportunity to bring a revised budget to voters, and if that, too, were voted down, the school board would need to find an additional $800,000 in cost savings to operate on a contingency budget, which would bring a tax increase of about $211 to a homeowner whose house is assessed at $600,000.
The vote will be held in the school library from 1 to 9 p.m.
Voters in the Montauk School District will decide on an $18.1 million budget for 2011-12. The proposed budget is up $161,800 over this year’s, a 1.9-percent spending increase, which would carry a 2.55-percent increase in taxes.
When the budget was initially discussed in early March, the district was looking at a potential $18.4 million spending plan, but the revised tuition agreement with East Hampton helped Montauk, as well.
According to Jack Perna, the district’s superintendent, the figures were kept lower this year because Montauk will send fewer students to the high school and there are no major maintenance projects planned. This school year, many after-school programs were cut to reduce costs and Mr. Perna said early in the 2011-12 budget process that next year was not the year to restore them.
Voting on Tuesday will be from 2 to 8 p.m. in the school gym.
At the Amagansett School, voting on the proposed $9.2 million budget will be between 2 and 8 p.m.
The budget is 10.72 percent higher than the one voters approved last May, but in November, the school budget was revised, adding almost $400,000 to district spending due to an influx of students into the district. The difference between the revised 2010-11 budget and the proposed 2011-12 budget is 5.81 percent.
In the Wainscott School District, voters will weigh in on a $3.58 million budget for 2011-12, an increase of 1.91 percent, or $22,695 over this year’s budget. The public can cast ballots at the school between 5 and 8 p.m.
Bridgehampton voters will be offered a nearly $10.6 million school budget, which shows a 5.63-percent increase over 2010-11.
Sagaponack School’s budget is $1.64 million, reflecting a change of $40,851 over this year’s budget, or a 2.6-percent increase.
The 2011-12 budget for the Sag Harbor School District is $33.2 million and represents a $1.7 million, or 5.48-percent, increase over this year. Both Sag Harbor and Springs carry propositions to form a capital reserve fund for future upgrades and maintenance to the buildings.
All of the districts have expressed great concern over the proposed 2-percent tax cap that the state may impose before the 2012-13 school budgets are set in stone. Since most of the increases are state-mandated, and almost 250 of those mandates are not accompanied by money from Albany, there is a statewide movement among school superintendents to have some of those rules abolished.
However, for this year, the budgets reflect the current state of affairs on the South Fork and elsewhere.