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Bridgehampton lowers tax levy, but 6.49% would still pierce state cap

Bridgehampton School in Bridgehampton.

Bridgehampton School in Bridgehampton. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

With a budget revote fast approaching, Bridgehampton school officials have trimmed their tax request for the 2021-22 fiscal year starting July 1.

Local officials announced at a public hearing Tuesday night that their tax levy would rise 6.49%, down from the 8.93% originally proposed. However, the new proposed rate still exceeds the district's state-assigned 2.93% tax cap, and will require a 60% voter supermajority to win approval.

The revised tax projection was unusual in its timing, because it came only a week in advance of next Tuesday's revote. Officials said they discovered the district had access to an extra $400,000 in revenues that were unexpected and could be used to curb taxation.

"This is good news," said Jennifer Coggin, the, district's school business manager.

Bridgehampton is one of four districts where budgets failed in the first round of voting in May, and where revotes are scheduled. The other districts are Northport-East Northport, Three Village and Wantagh.

Bridgehampton's proposed budget remains the same as in May: total spending of $20.6 million, up 8.81% from the current year.

Under state law, districts that lose two budget votes in a row must adopt "contingency" budgets, which freeze taxes for a year. Bridgehampton administrators on Tuesday said contingency there would mean a $1.46 million spending cut, coupled with elimination of programs including preschool, sports and summer camp.

Bridgehampton, which enrolls about 210 students, is one of the Island's wealthiest districts in terms of taxable real estate, though officials note that many students are impoverished.

As a small district, Bridgehampton also is susceptible to unexpected increases in costs that can have a disproportional impact on its budget. Officials cite as an example the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the district to hire a disproportional number of new teachers to help keep classes small and maintain social distancing.

"If it weren't for COVID, we wouldn't have to pierce the cap," said Ronald White, the school board president.

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