East Hampton district officials plan eight-percent budget hike

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The East Hampton School Board unanimously approved a proposed $59.1 million budget for the 2008-2009 school year on Tuesday, April 8, planning a 7.9-percent increase in expenditures with an expected 4.5-percent increase in the tax rate over the current year.

The budget was approved without comment and school district Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri did not return calls for comment. Residents will vote on the budget on May 20.

If the budget is approved, the tax rate in the East Hampton School District is expected to rise from $44.38 per $100 of assessed property to $46.39.

District officials are proposing to spend $41.96 million, or 71 percent of the total budget, on salaries and employee benefits. Contractual obligations make up 16 percent of the budget, and debt service—which includes money being spent to fund the district’s $79 million renovation project set to begin later this year—makes up 9 percent of the budget.

Some of the biggest increases are in the central services department, which includes operation, maintenance and repair of the buildings, special apportionment programs, including handicapped and special needs education and summer programs, and medical insurance. The central services budget is slated to rise from $3.5 million to $4.1 million, a 17-percent increase. Isabel Madison, the district’s budget officer, said in a phone interview on Tuesday that school officials were planning on buying a new set of bleachers for the high school gym, which are expected to cost $152,000

The school district’s budget for special apportionment programs is going up by 12.8 percent, from about $5 million to $5.7 million, which Ms. Madison attributed to increases in contractual payments and a mandate from the state that the school must now have a special education teacher in all special education classrooms.

Health and dental insurance costs are budgeted to rise from $5 to $6 million.

According to Ms. Madison, state education officials have reduced the amount of money the district must contribute to an employee’s retirement package from 8.73 percent of the employee’s yearly income to 7.63 percent. Employee retirement expenditures are therefore slated to decrease from $750,000 to $210,000 next year and teacher retirement expenditures to decrease from $2.2 million to $1.9 million.

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