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Story - Education

Apr 16, 2010 4:02 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton bows out of tuition meeting with other districts

Apr 16, 2010 4:02 PM

The East Hampton School District last week rebuffed a request from the Montauk School District to attend a meeting to re-evaluate its tuition rate, which is driving significant tax hikes in districts that send their high school students to East Hampton.

The Montauk School Board last month invited representatives of East Hampton and the other elementary school districts, or feeder districts, to a meeting on Wednesday, April 14, to discuss the possibility of East Hampton adjusting its tuition rate, which is expected to climb to more than $27,000 per student for the current 2009-10 school year. Though the East Hampton School Board declined the invitation in a letter dated April 7, the five elementary school feeder districts are expected to attend the meeting, which will be held at 4 p.m. in the Montauk School library.

There is a two-year lag time in the state’s calculation of the tuition rate through the Seneca Falls formula, and East Hampton’s feeder districts will need to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars each—and in Springs’ case, $1.2 million—in retroactive payments for 2008 through 2009 in their 2010-11 budgets.

When combined with escalating tuition costs, the payments to the East Hampton School District have been at the heart of hefty tax increases in Springs and Montauk, while East Hampton expects to keep its tax rate constant next year. Springs plans to adopt a 2010-11 budget that carries a 5-percent tax hike, while Montauk is working to whittle down a projected 14-percent tax increase before adopting its budget. In Springs, every budget line except for the tuition rate has gone down or remained level in the new budget, while the cost for tuition skyrocketed by 25 percent.

The East Hampton School Board members, in their letter, wrote that “as the Montauk superintendent also well knows, this tuition is the same for each district, and in fact, East Hampton is not permitted to offer Montauk a separate tuition agreement different from the rest of the school districts sending students to our high school.”

Montauk Superintendent Jack Perna said late last week that he was surprised at the wording of the letter, since he had invited all of the other feeder districts to the meeting in the hopes of working out a collective agreement with East Hampton.

“We weren’t trying to get a different rate. That’s not true and I don’t know where that came from. They know I know otherwise,” he said.

East Hampton’s letter was copied to the Amagansett, Sagaponack, Springs and Wainscott school districts.

But East Hampton School Board members said this week that feeder district schools were well aware that they would need to come up with retroactive tuition payments and should have budgeted accordingly last year. East Hampton School Board Vice President Michael Tracey added that he believes Montauk, which, unlike all the other feeder districts, does not have a contract with East Hampton, is playing politics by agreeing to host a meeting with all the districts when only Montauk is in a position to renegotiate at this time. The other four of East Hampton’s five feeder districts have signed contracts agreeing to adhere to the Seneca Falls rate for the next three years.

“There are several years left on the contracts with the other districts. Montauk knows that,” said Mr. Tracey. “We can’t offer you a separate agreement nor open up discussions with other districts. To me it’s a political move.”

Mr. Perna said that he personally was not sure what would be accomplished without East Hampton, but said Monday that it would be held regardless. The Springs School District plans to send Superintendent Michael Hartner, School Board president Christopher Kelley and at least two other board members to the meeting, and Amagansett Superintendent Eleanor Tritt said that she and an Amagansett School Board member plan to attend.

The Springs School Board sent a letter to the New York State Commissioner of Education in March asking for an investigation into East Hampton’s tuition practices, though East Hampton has maintained that its tuition strictly follows state guidelines by using the Seneca Falls formula, which takes into account the costs of the district’s partially completed $79 million high school expansion project. Critics of the formula believe that it is the maximum amount East Hampton can charge, not the rate it must charge.

There is recent local precedent for adjustment of tuition rates—the Westhampton Beach School District received a court order two weeks ago to pay $585,000 in tuition reimbursements to its five sending districts because that district had miscalculated tuition rates. Westhampton had been charging $18,000 per student and reduced its tuition to $17,300.

The East Hampton School Board, in its letter, stated that it believes its tuition calculations will withstand scrutiny, and added that Superintendent Ray Gualtieri had recently contacted the State Education Department to acknowledge the district’s cooperation in any investigation.

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Should Springs, Amagansett, and Montauk form their own centralized school district- and build their own High School- maybe in Montauk-Those parents have done their share of driving over the years! At least we`d get something for all the money we dump into EH`s greedy coffers. How long are we going to put up with their insults and their uncooperative ways? We have no say, no person on their school board. Taxation without representation. Where have we heard that before.
By sioux (1), East Hampton on Apr 17, 10 11:56 PM
It is time to send the Seneca Falls formula back to Seneca Falls. It is woefully outdated, favors the receiving district and has been successfully challenged by both feeder district and tuition receiving district. Time to revamp how tuition is paid by feeder districts. For better or worse we are no longer the sleepy rural/agricultural community that Seneca Falls was meant to serve. A good place to start.
By William Rodney (555), southampton on Apr 20, 10 10:40 AM
William, I agree, Have someone come up with a new formula which does not favor any district over the other. The problem with much of the current debate is that the info to the public is largely influenced by one paper and one reporter (not the press)

what actualy takes place between boards is not known by the public as a result. , and not even known between boards.
By johnnytax (29), new york on Apr 27, 10 10:08 PM
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