E.H. School District to Pierce Tax Cap

"There was no place left to go," said the East Hampton School Board president
Every department, all three schools in the district, and every grade "took a hit," the school board president said of the proposed 2014-15 budget. Morgan McGivern

     Following months of intense debate and fierce scrutiny, the East Hampton School Board decided during a budget workshop Tuesday evening to go above the state-mandated 2-percent cap on tax levy increases.

     According to a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, the proposed budget represents a 2.43-percent increase in the tax levy. As such, it requires the approval of 60 percent of voters in order to pass.

     The New York State tax levy cap allows school districts to increase their budgets by either 2 percent or the consumer price index -- whichever amount is lower.

     All told, the district sliced over $1 million from the preliminary 2014-15 budget.

     "There was really no place left to go," Patricia Hope, the school board president, said early Thursday. This is the third consecutive year that East Hampton has made significant reductions to its annual budget.

     Among the cuts, the district eliminated seven paraprofessional positions and reduced an elementary guidance position to part-time. Also included in the cuts were items related to materials, supplies, equipment, field trips, and professional conferences.

      "Every department took a hit, every school took a hit, every grade level took a hit," said Ms. Hope, who added that the decision was made with a fair degree of reluctance. "The last place to cut into was programs and we unanimously refuse to do that."

     The next school board meeting is planned for Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m., during which time public comments are welcome.

      "We made a decision that serves the students but we're still in the discussion phase," said Ms. Hope. "We want to hear from people. We serve the people."

     The annual budget vote will take place on May 20, and a budget hearing outlining the 2014-15 spending plan will be held in advance of that.