Budget Could Be Lower

       The Montauk School Board had its first peek at next year’s proposed budget, but it is far from being stamped with final approval, especially since one item’s fee was deemed “insane” by the school board president, Diane Hausman.

       Looking at preliminary figures, next year’s budget would come in at $18.6 million, which is $85,000 less than this year’s budget. The reduction is due, in part, to the fact that the district will at the end of this fiscal year pay off a loan it had taken out to purchase property, according to Jack Perna, the district’s superintendent.

       What raised the board’s hackles was the cost to transport a student by bus to Mercy High School in Riverhead — $110,713. The amount is billed to Montauk but ultimately shared with other districts, if they send students to the school. By law, the taxpayers must cover transportation costs for students living in the school district, Mr. Perna explained.

       School board members joked that for that cost they would drive the student.

       Other figures that Mr. Perna highlighted were the cost to remove asbestos in the school attic for a fee of just under $25,000, tuition fees to the East Hampton High School, which will be reduced next year from the $4.3 million earmarked for this year to $3.8 million, and an extra $95,000 for special education charter school students, because of rising tuition costs. Tuition payments to the C.D.C.H. Charter School next year are estimated at $475,000. All tuition fees include a “safety net” in case additional students move into the district, Mr. Perna said.

       Decreases in various line items leave the school room to add $250,000 to its capital fund, Mr. Perna said, adding that he would like to use the money to remove and replace some portable classrooms on the east side of the property that were installed 40 years ago and were only supposed to last 10 years. “Every time we have wind I have to move those students,” he told the board.

       The money would be a down payment on a three-year loan that would total an estimated $600,000, and would cover other contingencies and electrical wiring, he said.

       The budget workshops will continue through the rest of the month and into April unless the board settles before then on a final proposal to bring to voters. The district vote is on May 20 from 2 to 8 p.m. at the school.

       At a regular meeting before the workshop, the board devised a plan for making up days missed because of snow in order to meet state requirements. School will be in session the Monday after Easter, April 21, and on May 23 and 27, the Friday before and Tuesday after Memorial Day.

       They also agreed to grant tenure to Christopher Mandato of the music department, who has worked at the school for three years. “I’m very happy with his performance,” said Mr. Perna.