1 to 8 p.m. at East Hampton High School.
The district proposes a $66,081,710 budget for 2015-16, a 1.55 percent increase from the current $65,075,748. The local tax levy would rise 1.6 percent, from $47,884,273 to $48,657,436. This increase is less than the state's tax-cap limit of 1.82 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget. Last year, the district won approval of a budget that pierced the tax cap.
School taxes on the average single-family home would rise 1.35 percent, from $3,061.20 to $3,102.58. The proposed budget includes a 1.75 percent increase in teacher salaries, plus a 3 percent step increase.
Schools Superintendent Richard Burns said savings derived from a decrease in what the district has to pay into the teachers state retirement fund -- the district's contribution drops from 17.25 percent to 13.2 percent -- helped it stay within the tax cap. He also cited cost-saving efficiencies and a contract with teachers that included a wage freeze in earlier years of the contract. He said the reduction in the state pension fund produced "significant savings" that amounted to more than $700,000.
The district plans to add one high school math teacher, one computer coding teacher, and a middle school intramural sports program. The district also is going from half-day to full-day prekindergarten.
Christina DeSanti, Deme Minskoff and Elizabeth Pucci, all incumbents, and challenger John Ryan Sr. are running for three at-large seats. Terms are three years for two of the seats; and two years for one seat, which resulted from a resignation on the board last year. The winner with the third-highest vote total will get the two-year seat.
BACKGROUND: DeSanti, 44, is in her third year on the school board, currently serving as vice president, and is seeking her second term. She and her husband have a catering business. She received a bachelor's in business management from Ithaca College in 1992. She has lived in the district 20 years, and her two sons attend district schools, in the seventh and ninth grades. She is running as a team with the two other board incumbents.
ISSUES: DeSanti said a primary issue was "balancing the financing challenges of the 2 percent [tax] cap, while maintaining and even making improvements to the curriculum." She said the district has succeeded, citing changes that "revamped" the curriculum, introduced what she described as a major STEM initiative that is putting courses such as robotics and computer coding in elementary, middle and high school levels. The district is in the midst of a three-year program to give students from fourth through 12th grades a small laptop called a Chromebook. She also cited the upcoming move from half-day to full-day prekindergarten. She said the district continues to look for efficiencies, such as in reducing energy costs.
BACKGROUND: Minskoff, 52, is a retired fashion industry buyer with a bachelor's in economics, earned in 1984, from Allegheny College. She has lived in the district 14 years. She has a son and a daughter attending district schools, in the seventh and ninth grades. She served as PTA president from 2012 to 2014 and served on the East Hampton Middle School site base committee from 2011 to 2014. She was appointed to the school board in October after a board member resigned. She is running as a team with the other two board incumbents.
ISSUES: A primary concern, Minskoff said, was to ensure that students are either prepared for college or to enter the workforce. "I'd like to continue advocating for more diverse educational opportunities and wider breadth of classes," she said. "We're heading in that direction," she added, citing the addition of robotics and computer coding classes, expanding the district's Science Olympiad in the middle school and the planned Chromebook distribution to students. She said the district managed to stay within its tax cap, even while adding "full-day pre-K for free." She said this year's budget was a "thank you to our taxpayers."
BACKGROUND: Pucci, 52, a stay-at-home mother, earned an associate degree in business administration from Suffolk County Community College in 1983. She has lived in the district 34 years. One of her four sons is a junior at East Hampton High School; the other three are young adults, two of whom attend college. She is a member of the Ladies Village Improvement Society, which works on community beautification projects. She has served on the school board since 2011 and is running as a team with the two other incumbents.
ISSUES: Pucci said "continuing to balance and pass a budget under the 2 percent tax cap without compromising programs for our students will continue to be an important issue." As a result, she said the board would continue to explore shared services with other districts and "retooling" of all areas. She added, "Maybe we're going to be revamping our transportation department. Maybe our transportation department could work on the buses of these sending districts," she said of the communities that send students to East Hampton schools. She added "it has been a pleasure" to serve on a board that she said works well together.
John Ryan Sr.
BACKGROUND: Ryan, 79, has lived in the district 50 years. A retired educator, he now works as coordinator of lifeguard and junior lifeguard training for the Town of East Hampton. He earned a bachelor's in business administration from St. John's University in 1960 and a master's in mathematics from the University of California, Fresno, in 1973. His nine adult children all graduated from East Hampton High School. He's a longtime volunteer with the East Hampton Volunteer Ambulance Squad. He previously served on the school board from 1992 to 2011.
ISSUES: Ryan said while he supported the present school board and the budget, what "triggered me to make a comeback" was the issue of water safety. He wants children in the elementary school to continue to have the opportunity to take swimming classes during the school day at the YMCA located across the street from the elementary school. The district, however, is mulling making swim classes available for most students after school instead, citing concerns about students losing valuable class time. Ryan said, "As soon as you switch this to after school, the very kids that need it will opt out." He said it was critical to "waterproof" kids in a community surrounded by water.