Springs: Adopts Budget With 3.3-Percent Tax Hike

Next year’s proposed budget includes a tax levy increase of 1.3 percent

    It’s budget season, and the Springs School Board has voted unanimously to adopt a $25.4 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.
    Next year’s proposed budget includes a tax levy increase of 1.3 percent and a projected tax rate increase of 3.37 percent over last year. By comparison, last year’s $24.6 million budget included a 2.97 percent increase in the tax levy and a 3.19-percent increase in the tax rate, based on the previous year’s budget.
    Springs residents whose houses are valued at $600,000 paid $165 per household last year; this year those householders are projected to pay $180. Houses valued at $800,000 paid $220 last year; this year’s projected rate is only $20 more, or $240.
    In Springs on Monday night, at the fourth budget workshop of the year, about a dozen residents sat through a presentation that examined the proposed budget, a district-wide five-year overview, an examination of its fund balance, and the proposed tax rate and tax levy.
    “One of the goals was to develop a fiscally responsible budget to meet our educational goals. We believe we’ve done that this year,” said Eric Casale, the Springs School principal. “Even given our budget constraints, we believe we’re offering our students one of the most rigorous educational programs on the East End.”
    This year’s budget process stands in stark contrast to the prior year, when the school cut $792,000 from its preliminary budget. No cuts are planned for the coming year.
    Thomas Primiano, the school treasurer, noted that the projected budget represented a $123,017 reduction in spending from $25.5 million proposed at the first budget workshop in February. Despite such reductions, the $25.4 million budget represents a $782,380 increase in spending over the previous year.
    The budget includes a list of capital projects that will cost the district nearly $300,000. Among big-ticket items are a front vestibule and ramp at a cost of $75,000 and a parking lot and repairs along Ed Hults Lane for approximately $80,000.
    There is $642,000 for employee benefits, $231,000 for payroll, and a $354,000 reduction in East Hampton High School tuition after Springs negotiated a lower rate earlier this year. Come September, Springs also plans to add a sixth school bus “to meet our growing demand for more seats,” according to Elizabeth Mendelman, a board member. The school enrolled 667 students last September, but projects an enrollment of 695 this fall.
    Board members also debated whether to choose a Teachers’ Retirement System “pension-smoothing  plan” of 14 percent or go with 16.25 percent. While the lower-priced plan would save around $175,000, the district would essentially be borrowing money from itself that it would be forced to repay, with interest, in coming years. Both Springs and East Hampton ultimately rejected the plan, opting for a 16.25 percent rate for the coming year.
    “We’re in a cautious place, but feel we’re in a better situation than a lot of districts,” concluded Mr. Primiano.
    The budget will be made available to the public on May 7, followed by a public hearing on May 13. Finally, the budget vote and school board election, which has three candidates vying for two vacancies, will take place on May 21.