Tuition Windfall Helps Springs School District

Springs will save $391,716 next year

It was mostly good news for a standing-room-only crowd at the Springs School Board of Education meeting Monday evening.

Lisa Dragone, speaking for the Greater East Hampton Education Foundation, presented grants of $2,000 each to three faculty members. Lisa Self will use hers to purchase an iMac and an iPad, Colleen McGowan will buy cameras for her photography students to take home, allowing them to expand their studies outside school grounds, and Sean Knight and Bill Hallman plan to buy Dot and Dash robots, which teach students from kindergarten to fifth grade creative problem solving, coding, and digital literacy skills.

Barbara Dayton, president of the school board, announced that the list of candidates for school superintendent has been whittled down, and the board will begin interviewing candidates next week.

The board’s third budget workshop session followed, with more positive news. Because the East Hampton School District had reduced its high school tuition fees, Springs will save $391,716 next year, allowing the school to absorb a tax-cap gap of $91,312, reported at the Feb. 13 meeting. The board also plans to use the savings to cover the cost of two contingency teaching positions and to reduce the appropriated fund balance.

On Monday, Carl Fraser, the school’s interim business administrator, presented the board with add-backs as recommended by the administration. School officials have suggested adding $30,000 to professional development services. “The purpose is to continue to improve student learning by providing meaningful, focused, professional development opportunities for our teachers, administrators and support staff,” according to his PowerPoint presentation.

Mr. Fraser also recommended reducing the appropriated fund balance by $10,088 and the tax levy increase by $20,758. The recommended add-backs total $60,846.

The proposed 2017-18 budget for the Springs School is $28,113,085. The 2016-17 budget was $27,630,067, indicating an increase of $483,018, or 1.75 percent. 

The tax levy increase stands at 2.15 percent. The school remains under the tax cap levy allowed increase by $20,758, or 0.08 percent.

A breakdown of the budget into three categories — administration, capital, and K to 12 tuition, shows an increase in all three. According to Mr. Fraser, “higher costs projected for the 2017-18 budget are driven by increased high school enrollment, salaries and employee benefits, building maintenance, equipment, materials, and supplies.”

The evening’s only negative note was sounded near the end, when two community members addressed the board and voiced concern over Barbara Dayton’s remark that there was “nothing major to report” about the school’s expansion plans. Both speakers voiced frustration over the delay in planning. Ms. Dayton responded that while she understood their concern, the board’s priority remained to find the most cost-effective way to add more space to the school.

The school board will meet next on April 3 at 7 p.m. Its final budget hearing will take place on May 8, again at 7.