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Oct 10, 2012 1:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays School District Tax Rate Will Jump 5.5 Percent

Oct 10, 2012 1:45 PM

Almost two-thirds of all taxpayers in the Hampton Bays School District will see their school taxes increase by 5.5 percent next year, more than triple the amount estimated by school administrators last spring, before it was determined that the total assessment of property in the district had dropped by almost 4 percent.

At a meeting on Tuesday night, the Hampton Bays Board of Education unanimously approved a slightly lower tax levy than was projected—a 1.75-percent increase from 2011, rather than the 1.87-percent increase that the board estimated before the adoption of its $45.85 million budget for the 2012-13 school year last May. But the total taxable value of properties in the district has dropped from $3,258,794,780 to $3,138,036,133 over the past year, according to Southampton Town Assessor Lisa Goree, and, as a result, the tax rate must increase to generate enough money to cover the tax levy.

The tax rate is now expected to climb 64 cents, from $11.51 to $12.15 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 5.5-percent increase, according to Larry Luce, the business administrator for Hampton Bays. Therefore, a taxpayer whose home remains assessed at $450,000, about the district average, will pay $5,467 in school property taxes next year, or $287 more than this year.

Ms. Goree explained that out of the 7,161 taxable properties in the school district, 2,488, or 35 percent, will see their assessments drop, meaning they will not be asked to absorb the full 5.5-percent increase in taxes, and many could even see a reduction. At the same time, 4,328 properties, or 60 percent, will have the same assessments as last year and therefore will see their taxes go up by 5.5 percent. Another 345 property owners, or about 5 percent of taxpayers, will be asked to absorb an even higher increase on their tax bills as their assessments have gone up over the past year.

Hampton Bays Schools Superintendent Lars Clemensen explained that the district was able to slightly lower the tax levy, from $41,446,498 to $41,396,498, with the help of a $25,000 state grant and by squeezing revenue from other sources.

“We don’t have that crystal ball to say where assessed value is going to go,” Mr. Clemensen said, referring to the disparity between the projected and finalized tax rates. “The costs that we are able to control, we’ve brought down.”

He said the board would have had to make significant cuts to the budget in order to lower the tax rate, which could have resulted in the loss of essential school programs or services. He also noted that Hampton Bays continues to steadily grow in enrollment, while certain expenses, such as pensions and health care costs, continue to rise.

Ms. Goree said that, in April, the Southampton Town assessor’s office provides school districts with data that reflects what is happening in the real estate market at that time. Though the numbers her office provided were preliminary, she said the total assessment of Hampton Bays land has gone down over the past two years. Ms. Goree also said she advised the districts to plan for the anticipated drop in assessed values this year; Hampton Bays officials, however, used the prior year’s assessments when calculating the projected tax rate, resulting in a larger increase than expected.

“In that past, we have been burned when we’ve made projections,” Mr. Luce said. “We always use last year’s number, because we have been burned so many times by either being told that the assessed value will go up or the assessed value will go down. If I use what I know, that is the only way that I can have something concrete.”

Bond Referendum Set

Also on Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a plan to allocate a maximum of $1.1 million each year to cover the costs of 67 renovation projects in the district’s three schools.

Under the plan, which requires taxpayer approval and will be put to a public vote on Tuesday, November 27, the board could issue a maximum of $16.8 million in bonds to be paid back over the course of about 20 years. Mr. Luce explained that the district has the ability to receive aid, which he expects will decrease the amount that the district must borrow. The total amount could be significantly less than the maximum of $16.8 million, he explained.

Mr. Luce and Mr. Clemensen both stressed that the plan would cost taxpayers no more than they currently pay, as debt from renovations made to the schools beginning in 1998 will be paid off this year.

“This is a very thoughtful and well-planned package, I think, that balances maintenance to our facilities and programs for kids,” Mr. Clemensen said. “It’s a perfect alignment of circumstances right now.”

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??????? Am I hearing this right they want too build on to the school again? The first part of the article says taxes going up 8% and the next part is spend more. Has the board and superintendant lost their minds? Why not try too fix the problem, and maybe stop illegals from sending their kids too school for free. Whoops that was politically incorrect ..... but true. These architect firms now lobby school districts and try to convince them they need more school room. It is outrageous and dangerous ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 12, 12 7:22 PM
2 members liked this comment
They don't care- as a matter of fact the last superintendent was very proud of "her" achievement the expansion of the middle school- never mentioning the initial and operating costs that were incurred or mentioning why- she just beat it back upstate where she came from and doubled her pension with a stint downstate.
By bayarea (46), hampton bays on Oct 13, 12 2:20 PM
This is an outrage. The teachers union has to go. As Clint Eastwood said, if someone isn't doing the job, they gotta be let go. It's time for the people to stand up to this union money grab. Hampton Bays test scores show zero correlation to teachers' pay and they should. I am sick of this cleptocracy.
By SHPredatorDept (72), Southampton on Oct 26, 12 3:17 PM