School Budgets, Bus Depot Coast Through
Spending plans totaling almost $193 million for the 2018-19 academic year were approved on Tuesday by voters in school districts from Montauk to Bridgehampton. Budgets in all of those school districts came in below the state-mandated tax cap.
Perhaps the most significant nod of approval came in East Hampton, where voters green-lighted an $8.9 million bond referendum to cover the purchase of a three-acre property on Springs-Fireplace Road for a school bus depot and vocational education center. Approval of the project not only allows residents on Cedar Street to breathe easier now that the depot will be built elsewhere, but it signals a push by school officials to provide in-district training for students who want to pursue a future in service trades rather than attending college. With several local service industries already committed to providing training and licensing at the proposed vocational educational facility, East Hampton could be a leader in a model high school of the future. Richard Burns, the district superintendent, said the project’s estimated date of completion is 2020. There were 459 votes in favor and 158 votes against.
On school boards, voters also selected new members in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Sagaponack, and returned incumbents for additional terms in seven districts.
In East Hampton, where two seats were available, Sarah Minardi, a newcomer, was the highest vote-getter with 467. Christina DeSanti, the board’s current vice president, retained her seat with 436 votes. Jeffrey Erickson received 241 votes. Ms. Minardi will be the only board member with a child in the elementary school.
“I’m excited to be a part of this important team and to carry on and expand upon the good work the current school board has made their mainstay,” Ms. Minardi said on Tuesday after hearing the news. “I’m also very energized to be a voice for John M. Marshall Elementary School. . . . I’m looking forward to learning from this group as well as bringing my own ideas into the mix.”
With a vote of 532 to 89, the East Hampton School District’s $68.9 million budget proposal was approved. The budget reflects an almost $1 million increase over this year.
Budget and voting season is rarely uneventful in this tiny district.
The approximately $10.75 million budget for 2018-19 was approved, 171 votes to 74. However, all eyes were on the battle for the one available school board seat for a three-year term. Dawn Rana-Brophy, the incumbent, narrowly retained that spot with 134 votes, defeating Mary Eames, who received 104 votes. Ms. Rana-Brophy and Ms. Eames had faced off last year in a tightly contested race that saw last-minute write-ins emerge, Ms. Eames being one of them. Although Ms. Rana-Brophy prevailed last year as well, she had finished in third place, which only secured her spot for a one-year term. She was back on the ballot this year along with Ms. Eames, who declared herself an official candidate. The latter has been a regular at school board meetings, where she has continually questioned the fiscal responsibility of the administration and the board.
Voters also approved two additional propositions. The first, to authorize $107,000 from an energy and technology capital reserve fund for technical upgrades, passed, 193 to 48. A proposition to authorize spending $100,000 from a capital reserve fund to replace a school bus was also approved with 200 votes in favor and 43 against.
Despite a low-level campaign by school critics to vote down the 2018-19 budget of $28.9 million, it was approved with 269 saying yes and 151 saying no.
The $760,610 increase included a $277,000 contingency plan to cover faculty salaries should federal funding be eliminated.
Voters also approved $150,000 to purchase two new wheelchair-accessible school buses to replace outdated ones; 271 were in favor, 149 against.
Barbara Dayton, the board’s president, who ran unopposed, was re-elected with 332 votes.
There were no surprises in Montauk, where the $19.8 million budget for next year sailed through with a vote of 94 to 14, and Lee White, an incumbent running unopposed for his third five-year term, won it with 102 votes. There was one write-in vote for Karen Kuneth.
Although the budget was up by $970,000 from this year’s, $800,000 of that constitutes a payment into the school’s capital reserve fund, which the district hopes to use next year to replace its aging portable units.
Bridgehampton’s $16.3 million budget passed with 100 voting for it and 44 against. The budget reflected an almost $2 million increase over this year, of which almost $1 million is the first payment on the $24.7 million bond approved by voters in 2016 to finance the school expansion and renovation, expected to begin on July 1.
Three incumbents on the school board, Ronald White, the current president, Lillian Tyree-Johnson, the vice president, and Douglas DeGroot, all running unopposed, retained their seats with 130, 129, and 126 votes, respectively.
Voters said yes to a $41.9 million budget for 2018-19. There were 353 votes in favor and 162 against. Increased security measures and enhancing the district’s special education programs account for much of the almost $2 million increase.
Voters also approved a proposition to reduce the district’s current eligibility for free transportation for students from one mile to a half-mile distance from school. That was approved by 342 votes to 170.
For the school board, Susan Schaefer, an incumbent, and Jordana Sobey, a newcomer, were voted in with 436 and 389 votes, respectively. They ran unopposed.
Voters in Sagaponack unanimously passed the school’s $1.53 million budget proposal, with 87 votes. Sagaponack’s budget reflected a decrease of $165,890 when compared to this year. The student population and projected enrollment for next year are down and therefore less money will be required for out-of-district tuition, school supplies and equipment, and transportation.
Two first-time candidates were running for one seat on the school board. Lauren Thayer was the winner with 64 votes. Diane Payne got 26.
Voters also approved a one-year tuition contract for the Sag Harbor School District to educate Sagaponack’s preschool and fourth through sixth-grade students, and a one-year tuition contract with the East Hampton School District to educate only fourth through sixth graders.
The Wainscott School District’s $3.33 million budget for the 2017-18 school year was approved with 29 votes in favor and 0 against. The budget showed an increase of $383,938 from this year, which is the first increase after the board has successfully reduced its budgets for the previous six years.
With no challengers on the ballot, Kelly Anderson was re-elected to the school board with 29 votes.