Charles Barbour, who has been president of the Sagaponack School Board for more than a decade, will be the sole candidate up for reelection to the three-member board when voters gather at the schoolhouse on Main Street at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday for the district’s annual meeting.
Mr. Barbour, a carpenter by trade, was raised in Sagaponack and is the father of three children who all attended the Sagaponack school.
On average over the past 10 years, between seven and 15 students in the first through fourth grades have attended the school, while kindergartners and students in fifth through 12th grades attend classes at East Hampton schools. Nine students are enrolled in the school this year.
Sagaponack’s proposed budget for next year is $1.4 million, a 10.4-percent increase over last year. The tax rate is tentatively set for $0.41 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The school faced criticism from state auditors earlier this year for allowing its fund balance to balloon to 25 percent of its $1.3 million budget in 2006. The district has since used that balance to offset the tax rate and appease the state.
“With such a small budget, a little thing can hit pretty quick percentage-wise,” said Mr. Barbour, adding that it is difficult to budget for unforeseen expenses when a budget is so small.
“We try to keep it pretty close. We’ve been criticized on a few things,” he said. “In such a small district it isn’t always as bad as it looks.”
The state had also been critical of the school’s out-of-district tuition rate. Mr. Barbour said that, on average, half of the students in the school come from other districts. Those students’ parents are drawn to the district’s small size and individualized education, which comes at a cost of only $2,000 for the first child in the family and $1,000 for subsequent children.
The state criticized both Sagaponack and the neighboring Bridgehampton School District in January for missing out on revenue that could be generated by charging higher tuition to out-of-district students.
“We have had some criticism,” said Mr. Barbour. “Based on state figures you could charge up to $50,000, but if we charged $50,000 we wouldn’t have anybody going to school there.”
“We didn’t feel taking kids in was going to be a major expense to us,” he said. “Our operating costs weren’t going to change dramatically.”