Dear Wainscott School District Taxpayer:
Your Board of Trustees is proposing a budget for 2019-2020 of $3,324,651, representing an $8,626 or a .26 % decrease from last year’s budget. The Board is also proposing an 18.51 % increase in our tax levy and a corresponding increase in our tax rate from $141.42 to $167.62 per thousand assessed valuation in East Hampton and $8.20 to $9.72 per thousand assessed valuation in Southampton. The proposed 18.5% ($416,374) increase in our tax levy will pierce the District’s 2.93% effective statutory Tax Cap by 15.60%. Despite these significant increases, Wainscott’s school tax rate will remain the lowest of the East End Schools by a wide margin.
The Board fully recognizes the magnitude of the proposed increase and asks that you consider the following facts and circumstances that have bought our unique District to this juncture. We also caution you a further tax levy increase is likely for the 2020-2021 budget.
You will recall that over the last seven years the District has been working toward “right sizing” our annual budget and reducing our unrestricted fund balance to a more realistic level closer to legally mandated maximums. The Board has successfully achieved both these goals. Including its proposed 2019-2020 budget, the Board has reduced the amount of its annual budget in seven of the last eight years while expanding and increasing our program and student services in response to the changing needs of our students attending our highly acclaimed K-3 educational program in our Schoolhouse. During that period, we have also reduced our unrestricted fund balance by $2,250,000 by giving it back to our taxpayers through reduced tax levies in each of the past seven years. As we stated in our last two budget messages, our reliance on our unrestricted fund balance to decrease your tax payments was not sustainable and as a result this year’s tax levy increase is inevitable.
During this same time period, Wainscott has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of students residing in our district, particularly during the last two years. The number of students who attend the schoolhouse (K-3) or who are tuitioned out to East Hampton or Sag Harbor Schools (pre-K; 4-12) has increased a staggering 236% since the 2012-2013 school year ( 46 vs. 117). This has resulted in the two significant impacts. It has increased our student population in the Schoolhouse to 28 students which represents 116% of its capacity (there are already 32 K-3 students registered for next year which would increase our overcapacity to 133%). It has also increased our tuition costs (the largest line item in our annual budget) dramatically over that period in a cumulative amount far larger than this next year’s proposed tax levy increase. For example, our tuition payments have increased $365,000.00 over the last two years alone. To put these student increases in perspective, our neighbor the Sagaponack District has a slightly larger total population but only 38 total students residing in their District.
(Wainscott has 128 -including 11 private students not funded by our District).
These increases have brought our District to a crossroads which threatens not only our District’s long held mission of individualized instruction delivered to our students in our Schoolhouse’s open classroom format, but also the very existence of our Schoolhouse. You will be receiving our separate writing on this subject which we ask you to consider and act upon.
In the meantime, the Trustees invite you to participate in the budget vote and the District Election to be held on May 21, 2019 at our Schoolhouse. Your support is particularly requested this year since a sixty percent (60%) super majority vote is needed to pass the proposed 2019- 2020 budget as it exceeds our statutory Tax Cap.
As always, your Board of Trustees thanks you for your continued support and understanding.
David E. Eagan, President
William A. Babinski, Jr.