Three Bridgehampton residents will compete for two vacant seats on the Bridgehampton School Board later this month.
The two open seats are being vacated by incumbents Elizabeth Kotz and Gabriela Braia. The candidates, Michael Gomberg, Jeffrey Mansfield and Kathleen McCleland, went head-to-head during a meet the candidates hosted by the school last week, and are hoping to win a three-year term on the five-member board.
At the same time, district taxpayers will be asked to vote in favor of a $12.3 million budget, an increase of $1.1 million, or 9.93 percent over the current year’s plan. The proposed budget is attempting to pierce the New York State property tax levy cap, with a $10.6 million levy that increases 8.8 percent over the current year.
To pierce the cap, the district needs a supermajority, or 60 percent, of district taxpayers to approve the measure. If the vote fails to garner 60 percent, the district will have one more shot to pass the budget, which would include several cuts. If the budget fails a second time, the district will have to adopt a budget with a zero percent tax levy increase.
The state also is offering rebate checks equal to any increase in 2014 tax bills for most taxpayers in districts that stay within the cap—a benefit Bridgehampton voters would lose if the budget is approved by a supermajority vote.
Voting will be at the Bridgehampton School from 2 to 8 p.m. on May 20.
Mr. Gomberg, 41, has lived in Bridgehampton for two years after moving here from Manhattan in 2012. He has owned his house in Bridgehampton since 2003. An equity trader with two children in the district, Mr. Gomberg said he believes he has the background to help the district move in a positive direction.
“Right now, there is a very small core of very involved parents on the various committees, and I believe I can offer a fresh insight on how we can really better the education for our students,” he said last week. “My background in financing and accounting will be a valuable asset to the board.”
If elected, Mr. Gomberg said one of his biggest goals is to get more people in the community involved in the school district, a move he says will make the school a better place.
“It is a small enough community with fabulous resources and it is a shame they are not being utilized to their full potential,” he said. “These kids need support and it is a shame that we are not giving that to them.”
Mr. Mansfield, 49, has been living full-time in Bridgehampton since 2008, but he has been visiting the area with his family since 1959. A father of three children in the district, ages 7, 6, and 4, Mr. Mansfield said he hopes to be able to help close the gap between members of the school district and the rest of the Bridgehampton community.
“I have kind of fallen in love with the place, and I think it is already special, but it could be really special, so I think the school needs an advocate—someone who can cross communal boundaries, if you will,” he said. “It has always seemed that the school community has been a subset of the Bridgehampton community at large, and I would like to knock any of those walls down, whether they are real or imagined.”
One of Mr. Mansfield’s goals is to help the board work with the tax levy cap in the future. While admitting that he is typically a fiscally conservative person, Mr. Mansfield sees the value in education, and believes it should be a top priority for the community.
“Piercing the cap is tricky, because I believe in low taxes,” he said. “But I also believe as a community that education is one area we cannot afford to skimp on. How is it we live in the second-richest zip code in the nation, but our first-graders need pencils?”
Ms. McCleland, 43, grew up in Bridgehampton and moved back to the hamlet in 2004 from Manhattan. An international relations major at Colgate University, Ms. McCleland, a mother of two children in the district, spent eight years working in the event management division of Goldman Sachs. Currently, she works as a pastry chef at her husband’s Noyac restaurant, Bell and Anchor.
“I think that as a parent and a member of the community it is important to be involved,” she said. “Especially during a time where there are so many pressing issues for the budget and curriculum, and making sure that our school is the best it can be.”
If elected, Ms. McCleland said one of her goals is to make sure Bridgehampton students are put first in the school and the community. The children, she said, need programs and educational opportunities to help them in their education, and it is the board’s job to make sure those opportunities are available.
“We need to always be thinking about our students,” she said. “It is our general and overall duty to make sure that we are supporting the students, the teachers, the faculty, and to be able to work together. We have to support one another—we all come from a different perspective and bring different things to the table, and we have to work together as a team to support the children.”