Numerous members of the public relayed their relief, thanking the East Hampton School Board for reaching consensus regarding a controversial with the District that has sparked tension in the community for months.
“I want to offer my heartfelt thanks for this agreement,” said Mary McPartland of Springs. Her school district will save , preventing major budget cuts.
The long-standing inability to come to terms over the tuition issue, school board vice president Dr. Laura Anker-Grossman said, has “pre-occupied, occupied, and distracted us.” It has led, in part, to this year’s tax rate increase because the district has to absorb, she said, the first-year cost of the agreement.
Coming to consensus, Anker-Grossman said, “is an enormous accomplishment,” but will have an impact on taxpayers.
The concession stipulates that a new tuition contract will be executed between the East Hampton School District and Springs, as well as other sending districts, to run until 2015. The new tuition will still be based on the Seneca Falls formula, less a five percent discount in the first year.
Also, in the first year there will also be a reconciliation for overpayment, which amounts to about seven percent of tuition paid.
Thereafter, the tuition rate will increase at the same rate as the East Hampton High School budget with the understanding that the rate will never be more than 95 percent of the Seneca Falls calculate rate.
At Monday’s public budget work session, resident Paul Fiondella asked Assistant Superintendent of Business Isabel Madison about a “miscalculation” of $850,000 in the Seneca Falls formula “in favor” of the Springs school district. “How could you have made a miscalculation of $850,000?,” he asked. Fiondella also asked the board what the new agreement would mean to tuition in East Hampton.
Initially, Madison said the snafu was caused by a mix-up involving codes in payroll. “We are moving forward,” she said.
But on Tuesdays’ meeting, Madison set out to make some clarifications to her earlier statements. The $845,000, she said, is a combined number – the amount of the “correction,” that needed to be made after the confusion of miscoding is approximately $400,000. The rest of the amount is attributed to the five percent discount agreed upon in the settlement for the first year of the agreement. “I’m not saying I’m proud” of the coding error, said Madison, “but it was not $500,000.”
Decreases in revenue in the 2011-2012 school budget “come from the fact that we’ve finally settled the tuition agreement,” said Anker-Grossman.
One enormous plus to the agreement, she continued, is that the new understanding will help the board and district to continue working to provide the “sense of community,” that one student spoke about during the public sessions - - a sense of community she had found after only two years in the district, and one she hoped would not be destroyed by potential budget cuts.
“This agreement will allow us to focus on education, instead of being distracted,” by ongoing issues involving the tuition agreement,” Anker-Grossman said.