Double The School - If Taxpayers Approve

April 2, 1998

The Bridgehampton School will embark on the biggest building project in the district's history, a $6 million addition and renovation that will nearly double the school's size, if taxpayers approve the proposed 1998-99 budget next month.

The project includes a new gymnasium, auditorium, and library, an elevator, new locker rooms, a fitness center, a canteen area for students, and several additional classrooms. To pay for it, the district would use $2.5 million in reserve funds and a $3.5 million, 15-year bond.

It would mean a 6.4-percent budget increase next year, bringing the total proposed budget to $6,557,465. The tax rate will increase by 4.6 percent, to $17.70 per $100 of assessed value.

Still Lower Than '96

The figures may come as a surprise to some Bridgehampton taxpayers, who last year saw a 1.2 percent decrease in the school budget and a 5.8- percent decrease in the tax rate.

However, even with this year's increases, the district's business administrator, Deborah Haab, pointed out that the tax rate would be lower than it was in 1996-97 and almost the same as it was 10 years ago.

"Hopefully, we can educate our community so they can make a realistic judgment on the need for it," Charles Ebetino, the interim superintendent, said at a budget work session last Thursday.

"The elevator is a must," he added. "The classroom space is a must. But what we really want to do is transform this school."

Addition, Conversion

With the new facilities required by the Americans With Disabilities Act, the diversification of programs, and growing student populations, nearly all the public schools east of Southampton have had expansion and renovation on their agendas these days. While Bridgehampton's proposal is one of the most expensive, the School Board and Parent Teacher Organization appear solidly behind it.

The addition, which would contain new classrooms, a gym with locker rooms and 700 bleacher seats, a lobby/concession area, the elevator, and stairs, would be built on the south side of the present school building.

As reported last week, the existing gym would be converted into a first-floor auditorium and a new library. Two new classrooms would be built above the library. In the renovation process, the architects will refurbish the glass ceiling above the present gym.

Fitness Center

A fitness center would be added in the existing building, and the present library would eventually be converted into classroom space.

The plans also include another parking area.

Considering the popularity of the Killer Bees, the school's champion boys basketball team, some fans and players have been asking for a new, regulation-size gymnasium for years.

Although a few board members and parents are already getting sentimental about the old gym, which produced eight championships, that aspect of the plan might prove more popular with the community at large than other parts of the project.

Community-Friendly

The project would give Bridgehampton students facilities on a par with those in neighboring districts. In a school with just 170 students in kindergarten through 12th grades, it might prove difficult to convince the broader community that such improvements are really necessary.

"We shouldn't all suffer because people aren't choosing to send their kids to Bridgehampton," said Elizabeth Kotz, a co-president of the school's Parent Teacher Organization.

"I'd like to see the school be more a part of the Bridgehampton community whether or not people send their kids here," said Patricia McGrath, a School Board member. Over the past year she and other board members have talked about ways to make the school more community-friendly.

Open To The Public

Mr. Ebetino suggested that the auditorium, the fitness center, and, in the summer, the concession area, all be open for public use.

The new library and computer equipment could also be a draw for people in the community whose children do not attend the school.

"There is enough in here for everyone," Mr. Ebetino said.

If voters approve the project, construction will probably begin early in 1999 and be finished late in the year 2000. Supporters of the proposition have a long month and a half ahead of them as they try to convince the rest of the community to join them on voting day.

Teachers' Salaries

The School Board approved the proposed 1998-99 district budget last Thursday.

Aside from the building project, the biggest increases, all of which are required by contract, are for teachers' salaries.

Prekindergarten teachers will as a group make a total of $85,283, up from $74,820 this year. Teachers in kindergarten through sixth grades will be paid a total of $23,120 more than this year, bringing their compensation to $765,039.

Seventh through 12th-grade teachers will earn a total of $1,005,779, up $51,373 from this year.

Health Insurance

The district will pay out an additional $40,861 for employee health insurance benefits, for a total of $400,056.

The School Board is hoping to hire a full-time district clerk next year at a salary of $30,000. This year's part-time clerk position is held by Joyce Crews-Manigo, who also works as a secretary in the school's guidance office. She is earning $5,366 for her clerk duties this year.

The board would like to replace her full-time position in the guidance office with an entry-level employee.

The district expects to spend an additional $12,000 on legal services to cover negotiations with the Teachers Association. Teacher contracts expire on June 30.

BOCES Services

On some fronts the district will spend more on services and personnel through the Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The business administrator budgeted an additional $17,300 for in-service teacher training to complement the school's new computer technology package, purchased through BOCES, and for general teacher training.

A student assistance counselor through BOCES will earn $9,500 more than this year, bringing that person's salary up to $55,000.

The district will also pay $29,600 more to BOCES for its computer services. This will cover Internet access and monthly technical support.

Per-Diem Super

On other fronts, however, the district will be spending less on BOCES services. The amount spent on occupation education and special-needs services, for example, will each drop by $10,000, reflecting changing needs.

Other major differences in the budget represent a reorganization of spending rather than real changes.

In past years, for example, the Superintendent was also the building principal, and the salary for the position was allocated on two separate budget lines. This year, the Superintendent's salary of $114,304 is all on one line.

This reflects the School Board's plans to keep Mr. Ebetino in the district through September on a per-diem basis without benefits, and the board's anticipation of finding a permanent Superintendent to replace him.

In past years, there was a principal and an assistant principal who also acted as the district's purchasing agent. This year, there is one principal's position, with the purchasing agent's salary folded into that $80,000 salary.