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Long IslandEducation

Greenport school board votes to exceed state tax cap

David Gamberg, superintendent of Greenport and Southold schools,

David Gamberg, superintendent of Greenport and Southold schools, speaks at the Greenport school board meeting on Tuesday, April, 19, 2016 at Greenport School. Greenport board members unanimously approved a proposed budget that pierces the state tax cap. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Greenport school district will seek to exceed its state spending cap next year, after the five-member school board Tuesday night unanimously approved a $17,930,820 proposed budget that would pierce the system’s tax-levy limit.

It joins two other East End districts, Amagansett and Bridgehampton, whose boards last week voted to exceed their tax caps.

Greenport’s maximum increase for its tax levy for the 2016-17 school year would have been 0.77 percent under the state’s complex cap formula. The district voted to increase the tax levy to $13,780,531, an 8.52 percent increase over the current year, mainly to restore teaching positions eliminated under previous years’ caps.

Because the proposed budget pierces the state imposed tax cap, it will need at least 60 percent of the voters to approve it at the May 17 budget vote.

Superintendent David Gamberg said the last five years of tax caps have critically affected the district, where enrollments and state mandates have increased, and staffing levels have decreased because of previous budget cuts. Nine years ago, there were 10 more teaching positions in the small district, with a smaller enrollment. This budget adds five full-time teaching positions and two part-time, as well as some support staff.

“We aren’t putting in a swimming pool or building a new administration building,” Gamberg said. “This is by way of restorations.”

Positions added include reading, English-as-a-second language, special education, secondary math, and part-time positions in social studies and elementary science. Only the elementary science position is not a position lost during the previous years, Gamberg said.

“Nine years ago, the poverty rate classified by free and reduced lunch was 24 percent,” Gamberg said. “Now it is almost 70 percent. We are trying to teach those kids who are already at a disadvantage.”

School board member Babette Cornine said the proposed budget “provides the seeds for our children to grow.”

Greenport, located on the bucolic North Fork, joins the East End in having some of the highest real estate values on Long Island. The district’s enrollment is about 650 students.

Said Gamberg: “Those children need the support, and if we don’t support early and properly, it catches up.”

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