Featured Story

Greenport School District looks to pierce tax cap with proposed budget

Facing a $286,000 shortfall in the proposed 2018-19 budget, the Greenport Board of Education announced Tuesday it is looking to pierce the tax cap. 

The proposed spending plan, which totals just over $19 million, includes a 4.62 percent tax levy increase. The district’s cap is set at 2.62 percent.

Superintendent David Gamberg said at a budget meeting the previous day that in order to stay at or under the tax cap the district would need to cut staff and services. Possible eliminations would have included reducing the amount of secondary teachers, a reduction in secondary level clubs, cutting the pre-k program and removing driver’s ed, he said.

“All of us, certainly at this table and I’m sure all of you looked at the possible areas that we could cut … they’re really horrible for kids,” board member Heather Wolf said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And horrible for kids is horrible for adults of all flavors. Whether it be the staff members here or parents or members of the community. Once again we ask this incredibly generous community to join us in this mission.”

This is the third time the district has asked residents to pierce the property tax cap since it was enacted in 2011. The most recent was in 2016, when voters approved an 8.52 percent increase in the levy, amounting to about a $1 million dollar increase.

Noticeable increases in the 2018-19 budget are a 14 percent increase in special education services, a five percent hike in maintenance to accommodate security upgrades — including hiring a full time security guard — and a rise in healthcare premium costs, Greenport purchasing agent Frank Mazzie said.

Overall, the proposed budget increases spending by 3.66 percent, or $672,500, over the current school year.

Should the proposed budget pass, taxes are expected to increase by $147 annually for property assessed at $3,500. Property assessed at $9,800 will see a $413 annual hike, assistant superintendent for business Charles Scheid said.

In order to pierce the cap, the budget is required to pass with a 60 percent majority rather than a simple majority vote. If the community does not pass the budget, the district has the ability to put forward a second budget plan to be voted on.

Should that not pass as well, Greenport would receive a 0 percent increase in the 2018-19 budget, Mr. Gamberg said.

The decision to attempt to pierce the tax cap, which was approved unanimously, was met with applause from the dozens of community members in the audience at Tuesday’s meeting.

At a budget meeting on Monday residents urged the board — which at the time had not made a final decision about whether to pierce the cap or make cuts to the proposed budget — not to eliminate any programs.

“We fought to pierce the cap at eight percent [in 2016] and it passed. The public, we want better for our kids,” a resident said Monday. “I would really hope you consider piercing the cap, because like you said, none of the options for cuts are good.”

The budget vote is on Tuesday, May 15 from 2 to 8 p.m.

[email protected]