Bridgehampton Voters Head to the Polls

A voter at the polls in Bridgehampton on May 20 Taylor K. Vecsey

Voters in the Bridgehampton School District head to the polls Tuesday to decide, for a second time, whether to allow the district to pierce the tax cap. The polls open at the school gym at 2 p.m. and close at 8.

After the $12.3 million budget failed to gain the required 60-percent supermajority during the first vote last month, the school board unanimously voted to put forth the same budget.

Under a state law that went into effect two years ago, the cap on increases in property taxes is either 2 percent or the Consumer Price Index — whichever is lower. This year, districts faced a cap of 1.46 percent. The $12.3 million Bridgehampton spending plan for the coming school year translates to a $10.6 million tax levy, an increase of 8.8 percent.

The defeat, on May 20, was by a vote of 134 to 113, a margin of 21 votes. With 247 residents casting ballots, only 54 percent were willing to pierce the cap.

Should the budget go down a second time, Bridgehampton would be forced to adopt a contingency budget based on this year’s figures — with cuts amounting to $770,000, according to Ron White, the school board president, who said complacency was to blame for the defeat.

The Bridgehampton $1.1 million, or 9.93-percent, spending increase over the current year’s $11.2 million budget was said to be primarily due to contractual increases and unfunded state mandates. Had the board decided not to pierce the cap, the district faced not only layoffs, but also cuts to essential programs.

Four Long Island districts put forth cap-busting budgets, but only East Hampton's $65 million budget received voter approval, with 73 percent. The West Babylon and Sayville budgets failed.