During Revote, Bridgehampton Passes Cap-Busting Budget

On Tuesday night, by a vote of 240 to 145, Bridgehampton voters decided to pierce the tax cap on a $12.3 million budget for the 2014-15 school year. 

Laura Spillane, the district’s treasurer, announced the news in Bridgehampton School’s gymnasium shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. The mood was celebratory, with members of the community loudly cheering and applauding. With 385 voters turning out, the budget passed by a 62 percent margin.  

Bridgehampton School put forth a $1.1 million, or 9.93-percent, spending increase over the current year’s $11.2 million budget. The $12.3 million spending plan translates to a $10.6 million tax levy, an increase of 8.8 percent. 

Under a New York 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, school districts faced caps of 1.46 percent. 

Piercing the tax cap requires a 60-percent supermajority in order to pass. At 62 percent, Tuesday’s revote put Bridgehampton narrowly over the finish line. 

Originally, Bridgehampton was among the four districts across Long Island to put forth cap-busting budgets. Only East Hampton, with 73 percent of voter support, was successful during last month’s vote. Budgets in West Babylon and Sayville were similarly struck down. Though West Babylon and Sayville put forth drastically lowered budgets for this week’s revote, the Bridgehampton school board unanimously voted in support of the same $12.3 million budget. 

On May 20, by a vote of 134 to 113, Bridgehampton failed to gain the required 60-percent supermajority by a margin of 21 votes. With 247 residents casting ballots, only 54 percent were willing to pierce the cap. Had the budget gone down a second and final time, Bridgehampton would have been forced to adopt a contingency budget based on this year’s figures -- with cuts amounting to nearly $800,000 according to Ron White, the school board president, who blamed complacency and low voter turnout on the initial defeat.

The mood was tense on Tuesday night, as about a dozen residents of all different ages filtered into the school’s gymnasium to cast their ballots shortly before the 8 o’clock poll closure.  Lois Favre, the district’s superintendent, said she remained “hopeful” in the minutes leading up the vote count. 

Douglas DeGroot, who has served on the school board for the past four years, said Tuesday’s revote left him feeling vindicated. “A lot of people thought we were arrogant to go out with the same budget, but we cut as much as we could,” said Mr. DeGroot. “It’s great to finally get this community support.”

“I’m very happy,” said Tamara George, whose son is in the first grade. “This is a wonderful school.” 

Dorothy White, who has worked as a custodian for the past 20 years, also felt elated. “This is awesome,” said Ms. White, whose son is the president of the school board. A graduate of Bridgehampton School, her four children are graduates, in addition to two grandchildren who are currently enrolled. “As a hard worker, I just didn’t want to see anyone lose their job.”