Three Want Two Seats; Tax Cap Pierced

Michael Gomberg, left, Kathleen McCleland, and Jeffrey Mansfield are running for two vacancies on the Bridgehampton School Board. Each is a three-year term.

Though many local school board races have only incumbents running unopposed, Bridgehampton is an exception, with three residents vying for two slots.

Michael Gomberg, Jeffrey Mansfield, and Kathleen McCleland are in the running after Elizabeth Kotz and Gabriela Braia, two incumbents, decided against pursuing additional three-year terms.

“It’s our duty as a community to provide the best education for our students,” Mr. Gomberg, 41, said of his decision to run. He has owned a house in Bridgehampton since 2003, and lived before that in Manhattan, where he worked in finance. Two years ago, his family relocated full time to Bridgehampton, drawn to the “small, nurturing community.” His two children, ages 8 and 6, attend the Bridgehampton School. He continues to work in finance in Southampton.

“I think there’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I’m hoping to attract people back to Bridgehampton School.”

A native of Great Neck, he attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance. His wife, Anne Tschida Gomberg, works as a consultant for the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor and serves on the school’s parent teacher organization.

“I want to be an advocate for the school,” said Mr. Mansfield, 49. “We take great pride in our town, how Main Street and our beaches are kept up. In my opinion, the community hasn’t given the school the same support as we’ve given other public institutions and it’s time for that to change.”

He is the president of the Bridgehampton School Foundation, a member of the school’s PTO and its long-term strategic planning committee, a vice president of the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Little League, and a member of the Bridgehampton Citizen Advisory Committee. Mr. Mansfield also serves on the Southampton Town Audit Advisory Committee. Last fall, he unsuccessfully ran for Southampton Town Board.

For 17 years, Mr. Mansfield worked on Wall Street. After getting married, he and his wife, Micki, wanted to raise their children outside the city. They moved to Bridgehampton from Manhattan in 2008. The couple’s three children, ages 3, 6, and 7, attend the school. Mr. Mansfield is now a full-time father. His wife works at Ralph Lauren in East Hampton.

He grew up in the tristate area, spending summers in Bridgehampton, and attended the Manhasset public schools. He later received a bachelor’s degree in history and a joint law and business degree from Syracuse University.

“I would like to see more positive recognition of our school,” Ms. McCleland, 43, said of her decision to run. “We have to make sure that the kids are getting everything possible. We want kids to be able to compete in the work force and college. We’re creating citizens of the future and we want them to be successful members of the community.”

A Bridgehampton native, she has two children in the district, ages 3 and 6.

After attending McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead, Ms. McCleland attended Colgate University, where she studied international relations. She lived in Manhattan for several years, working as vice president of corporate event planning at Goldman Sachs.

Her husband, Sam McCleland, is the chef and an owner of the Beacon and the Bell and Anchor, where she works as a pastry chef. For the past decade, she has also worked as a personal chef.

The Bridgehampton School Board voted in recent weeks to pierce the state-imposed cap on property tax increases. It approved a $12.3 million spending proposal for the 2014-15 school year — an increase of $1.1 million, or 9.93 percent, over the current year’s $11.2 million budget. Additionally, the district is proposing a $10.6 million tax levy, an increase of 8.8 percent, or $855,819, over the current year’s $9.8 million levy.

Under the proposed plan, the tax rate is expected to rise 7.7 percent, from $1.55 to $1.67 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For instance, homeowners whose properties are valued at $500,000 can expect to pay approximately $56.64 more in taxes.

Four school districts across Long Island, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Sayville, and West Babylon, have proposed similar overrides. Each requires the approval of 60 percent of residents who show up to cast their ballots on May 20.

Under state law, which went into effect in 2012, caps are calculated at either 2 percent or the 2013 Consumer Price Index — whichever amount is lower. This year’s figure is 1.46 percent.

Among the 124 school districts across Long Island, 17 districts attempted overrides in May of 2012, with seven districts voting to pierce the cap last spring. Across Long Island, most attempts have failed to gain the support of 60 percent of voters.

Come May 20, if a budget fails to pass, the district will have one opportunity for a re-vote. The board can decide to propose a new plan with decreased spending or try again with the same budget. If the budget fails to pass a second time, however, the district is forced to adopt the budget from the previous school year, with huge cuts expected in both Bridgehampton and East Hampton.

A public hearing took place last night. The annual budget vote and school board election will take place at the Bridgehampton School on May 20 from 2 to 8 p.m.