Southampton School Board adopts budget

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The Southampton School Board approved a $53.2 million budget for the 2008-09 academic year on Tuesday evening that includes a 4 percent increase in the tax rate.

The tentative budget, which must be approved by district voters on May 20, calls for the tax rate to rise from $2.24 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.33 per $1,000. The extra revenue will be needed to cover a proposed 7.5 percent hike in spending.

The actual tax increase for some property owners could be more than 5 percent if their land gained value through the townwide reassessment this year. In fact, the total tax levy will go up 9.7 percent, while the total assessment of properties in the district rose 5.7 percent.

The majority of the tax rate increase—3.8 percent—is due to the fact that the district will begin making payments on a $53.4 million capital project for a new athletic field, renovations to school buildings and other improvements. The debt payment accounts for $1.5 million of the district’s $3.7 million spending increase.

Besides the debt payment, teaching costs—personnel salaries, books, supplies and equipment and special programs—are a major contributor to budget growth. Spending on teaching is budgeted to rise from $15 million to $16.1 million, a 7.5 percent increase.

Many areas of the budget, such as transportation, instructional support and administration, will see modest cuts.

“When we put the budget together originally, I wanted to construct ?a maintenance budget, essentially ?one that would keep the same services next year as we have this year,” ?Superintendent J. Richard Boyes said during Tuesday’s School Board meeting.

His plan included two additions, a fourth nurse and a security officer, while several other new positions were also suggested by parents and faculty. Ultimately, the School Board approved adding a behavioral specialist to aid children with special needs and their parents, and a full-time technology support teacher, who would show teachers how to integrate the school’s technology with their curriculums.

Dr. Boyes said he will also try to reallocate resources within the budget to provide a new student support position, like a social worker, at the intermediate school.

The School Board also approved adding $100,000 to the budget for rising oil and diesel costs, but declined to allocate $75,000 for a playground.

Considering the national economic slowdown, Dr. Boyes tried to restrict the operating budget as much as possible, he said.

A public hearing on the budget will be held on May 6 at 7 p.m. at the Southampton Intermediate School Library. Dr. Boyes said he will also be giving presentations on the budget to the Southampton Rotary Club and other groups, adding that he is willing to do the same for any other interested community organizations.

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