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Apr 9, 2014 1:30 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Board Of Education Adopts $54.7 Million Spending Plan

Apr 9, 2014 1:30 PM

The Westhampton Beach Board of Education unanimously adopted a $54.7 million budget for the 2014-15 school year on Monday night, a spending plan that avoids layoffs and maintains programs while actually collecting slightly less in taxes than the current fiscal year.

The budget, which would not exceed the state-mandated tax levy cap, must still be ratified by taxpayers on May 20. It represents a 2.2-percent increase in spending over the current year’s $53.5 million spending plan. The proposal also decreases the tax levy, or the amount that the district collects in taxes each year, by less than half a percent, from $27.28 million this year to $27.19 million next year, according to the district.

Schools Superintendent Michael Radday explained that the district received an additional $600,000 in building aid this year from Albany for various construction projects. That increase in aid actually changed the formula used to calculate what the district’s tax levy could be under the state cap—in fact, it offset any allowable increase in the levy, so much so that the district actually is required to reduce the amount it collects in property taxes to even meet the cap next year.

Suzanne Mensch, president of the Board of Education, said that fact presented a challenge while she and the other school administrators helped craft next year’s spending plan, which must be voted on by taxpayers on May 20. A handful of retirements coupled with the use of reserves also offset the increased fixed costs.

Required contributions to the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System will increase by $304,000, health insurance costs are projected to climb by $459,000, and contractual salary increases are expected to cost the district an additional $437,000 next year. Those changes accounted for the largest year-to-year spending increases in the budget proposal.

Mr. Radday said that based on the preliminary information provided by the Southampton Town assessor’s office, district taxpayers can expect to see their tax rate dip slightly in the coming year. The overall assessed value in the district is projected to increase slightly, he said. The assessments are finalized by Southampton Town in the fall, at which time the final tax rate will be determined.

“Even using the assumption that the overall assessed value will remain flat, the average taxpayer will see a decrease in the tax rate because the budget adopted by the Board of Education calls for a decrease in the tax levy,” he wrote in an email.

The superintendent did not provide a more specific projection of what the tax rate will be. The tax rate for the current school year is approximately $6.23 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The district is slated to receive almost $1.9 million in state aid for the 2014-15 school year, an increase of approximately $96,000, or 5.34 percent, over last year’s state aid allocation.

“While I believe that the tax cap is and continues to be detrimental to our public education system, particularly for the long term, I am pleased that we were able to adopt a budget within our tax cap that maintains our high standards of academic excellence here in Westhampton Beach,” Ms. Mensch wrote in an email.

Mr. Radday said the proposed budget maintains all services and programs, though it does eliminate a computer technician position, which is currently vacant.

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Ms Mensch thinks the tax cap is a detriment to our education system? How about the teachers unions and the benefits provided? When was the last time the bus contract was bid out- oh- wow- what a conflict of interest. Or is that contact grandfathered in now.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Apr 9, 14 7:40 PM