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Story - Education

Mar 30, 2010 7:31 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

High school tuition eats up funds in feeder districts

Mar 30, 2010 7:31 PM

From Wainscott to Montauk, the cost of sending students to East Hampton for their high school education is driving what many administrators see as inevitable increases in school budgets.

The Montauk School District is expecting to spend a total of $5.2 million, an increase of more than $1 million over last year, to send 160 students to East Hampton High School, and the School Board is looking for other ways to reduce its proposed $18.23 million budget, which carries a nearly 11-percent spending increase.

In addition, because of a lag time in the manner in which the New York State Department of Education Department calculates tuition rates, Montauk will need to shell out $662,800 in payments for back tuition for the 2008-2009 school year.

The district also expects a $113,000 decrease in state aid, and is projecting a tentative tax rate increase of 14 percent.

Montauk School Superintendent Jack Perna said this week that the School Board is still working to whittle down the budget, in the hopes of not cutting any more positions beyond those of teachers who are retiring this year.

Two weeks ago, one elementary school teacher’s position was cut. That teacher, who is out on maternity leave, had just received tenure and district officials said that she will be given preferential treatment in the hiring process if new positions open at the school.

“We had one person retiring—a half reading and math and half tech teacher. We have lower numbers in the seventh grade next year, so if we don’t replace the tech teacher we can have some of her job picked up by a science teacher,” Mr. Perna said. “We’re trying to think of creative ways to do this.”

Mr. Perna said that he didn’t know how the district could manage to shave much more off the current budget draft.

“I’m quitting. I don’t know. I’m going to Florida and I’m not coming back,” he quipped.

The Montauk School Board will continue its budget workshops on Tuesday, April 6, at 4 p.m.

The board has also called a meeting for Monday, April 5, inviting representatives from other districts to discuss what all four elementary school districts that send their upper class members to East Hampton are beginning to chafe under: the fact that East Hampton charges the maximum tuition amount allowed by New York State.

The Seneca Falls formula, calculated by the state to allow school districts to recoup their costs of operation, allows East Hampton to charge other school districts $21,576 per year for elementary school students and $25,842 per year for students in seventh through 12th grades. The district is allowed to charge feeder districts more than $55,000 for special education students.

“There’s a common misconception that the Seneca Falls rate is the rate, but it’s the most a school district can charge. This is not mandatory to charge these rates,” said Wainscott School District Superintendent Dominic Annacone. “There are other districts that take tuition kids that don’t charge the maximum. This is a bone of contention with some feeder districts in East Hampton.”

The state does not calculate the actual number until two years after the year in which the charges apply, meaning that those figures would be accurate for the 2008-2009 school year, but the school will have to pay any difference between that amount and the correct amount for this year when that number is calculated two years from now. East Hampton began using the Senaca Falls formula only last year.

Amagansett School District Superintendent Eleanor Tritt said that she anticipates that East Hampton’s rate for 2009-2010, which will have to be repaid in the 2011 school year, will increase again to $27,423 per high school student. Her district will need to spend an additional $286,000 on retroactive tuition payments this year.

Amagansett is facing a potential 4.5-percent budget increase next year, to $8.3 million, and will pay $1.85 million to send students to East Hampton High School.

“We expect to lose $40,336 in state aid as well as additional amounts in federal aid. We have only one class in each grade, so it is not practical for us to make staffing cuts,” said Ms. Tritt. “We have reduced projected expenditures as much as possible in discretionary areas in order to keep increases to a minimum. Otherwise, our budget maintains all programs, but does not add any.”

The Springs School Board, which will need to pay $1.2 million in retroactive tuition charges next year, has asked East Hampton for a 1.5-percent tuition refund, similar to the 1.5-percent tax decrease that East Hampton is expected to put up to vote for taxpayers in its own district.

East Hampton School District Superintendent Ray Gualtieri has not responded to the Springs board’s request and Springs has since asked the State Education Commissioner to launch an investigation into East Hampton’s tuition policies.

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$27,000 per high school student? I'm thinking a parent could hire a private tutor September through June for his/her children. There are lots of unemployed and qualified people.
By Montaukette (46), Waterland on Apr 6, 10 10:21 PM
Why is it only 17,300 in Westhampton?

By Hambone (514), New York on Apr 7, 10 12:56 PM