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Oct 30, 2014 1:41 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton And Tuckahoe Officials Present Merger Plans To Residents

Nov 7, 2014 11:30 AM

Officials from the Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts are making a final push to get merger information to taxpayers before straw votes on November 18.

Each district held a community forum on Wednesday, October 29—among many planned for the Southampton School District—with a stated goal of presenting as much information as possible to taxpayers, and to field questions. The straw votes will be the first of two possible public referendums on the reconfigured annexation plan, and a second run at the issue after Southampton voters rejected a merger in a straw vote last year.

At both meetings, a revamped plan created by Southampton School District officials was presented. It highlighted what a proposed combined budget for the two districts would look like should Southampton annex Tuckahoe starting on July 1—figures that were not available last year when the proposal failed with Southampton taxpayers. The presentations also discussed two pieces of legislation from Albany that would slowly roll out the tax increases for Southampton residents and would allow the district to use capital reserve funds to offset tax increases.

According to Southampton officials, the current Tuckahoe school tax levy is $16,855,182, while the Southampton school tax levy is $50,749,238. Combining services and joining the two districts, creating a combined school tax levy of $67,604,420 for the 2015-16 school year, Southampton officials believe, also could curb unnecessary spending in the two districts, leading to a reduction in expenditures.

With the reevaluated figures from Southampton, the merger would account for an incremental increase in the tax rate for a home in Southampton over the next decade from $2.44 to $2.77 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That means that in the 2024-25 school year, the tax associated exclusively with the merger would add no more than $330 to the overall school tax bill for a house valued at $1 million. For the years in between, the taxes paid to cover the merger would rise gradually until reaching that $330.

Currently, Tuckahoe residents are paying $7.57 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in total school taxes. By 2024-25, taxes will have steadily decreased so that Tuckahoe and Southampton residents are paying the same amount in school taxes, with $2.77 per $1,000 of assessed valuation associated exclusively with merger costs. That means that for a house with an assessed value of $1 million, a Tuckahoe resident would pay $4,800 less in school taxes associated exclusively with the merger by 2024-25.

“We still feel that the best option for the children of this community is a merger,” Tuckahoe School Board President Robert Grisnik said. “None of us wants Tuckahoe to go away. We as adults, we as community leaders and as parents, need to think about what is best for our children, and that is a merger.”

At the Southampton meeting hosted at the Southampton Cultural Center on Wednesday night, roughly 30 people listened to the presentation, with a few asking questions about why the district charges more for Tuckahoe tuition than other school districts, and what the impact would be for the district if the high school lost students from Tuckahoe. One resident was also concerned about the district school buses, saying there was not enough space for any new buses that would be needed to accommodate added students from Tuckahoe, and that parking is limited for bus drivers.

Southampton Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina explained that tuition rates for the district are based on the financial needs for the district, which can be substantially higher east of the Shinnecock Canal. He also explained that the district would be forced to cut most if not all of the junior varsity level sports programs, and reduce class sections to one in many instances, if Southampton lost its high school students from Tuckahoe.

While he did not have a specific plan in place for the buses, Dr. Farina said he was confident the new buses could be fit into the current bus garage and that the parking issue could be addressed if necessary.

In Tuckahoe, Superintendent Chris Dyer focused on the current finances of the district, saying that Tuckahoe has only $486,000 in debt, and would contribute $16 million in assets and reserve funds that would be transfered to Southampton should the merger be approved.

While Tuckahoe officials were optimistic about the merger vote, many residents at the forum at the Magee Street elementary school were more apprehensive, saying they were concerned about their children’s educational futures and keeping the Tuckahoe identity alive.

The straw vote is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18. Tuckahoe taxpayers can cast their ballot at the elementary school from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., while Southampton residents can vote from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Southampton Intermediate School music room.

Staff writer Alyssa Melillo contributed to this story.

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I have been a homeowner in Southampton Village for the past 15 years. A neighbor of mine made me aware of this situation. Although I have no children in the school system, I am a taxpayer. The logic of the school merger is sound with the cost of investment relatively modest. Better to address such things ahead of an anticipated problem rather than wait and deal with the much larger cost in a crisis.
By JordanSchweon (1), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Oct 30, 14 3:24 PM
That's what the school district want you to think, that it's only a modest increase. I hope you do know that the district put out the numbers not an independent firm. Let's hope this merger goes down in flames again.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Oct 30, 14 9:28 PM
Hampton Bays and the Southampton portion of the Riverhead school district pays just over $13.00 per $1000 of assessed value in the 2013-14 published rates as a comparison.
By Brad (28), Northampton on Oct 30, 14 3:43 PM
Park the extra buses at the neighboring property that Tuckahoe purchased.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Oct 30, 14 11:14 PM
There is no independent accounting to how much taxes will go up in Southampton. The figures are made up by the Superintendent who is not an accountant. The same man who said cleaning the school two weeks ago would cost 30k now it is costing 80k. The superintendent is not held accountable, and obviously can care less because he is not paying our taxes.
The education standards will not go up, and the employees of the bankrupt Tuckahoe District will not take a pay cut. In this day, and age how ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 31, 14 9:43 AM
In 10 years, Village taxes per $1 million of valuation will rise $330 just for the merger alone. Add the increased cost of operating the then larger schools AND the hopefully increased value in your home over 10 years and that number could be $500 extra per million. Our village homes are valued at $2 million to $40,000,000 ... don't kid yourself, that's a LOT OF MONEY we're being asked to pay, while Tuckahoe resident's taxes drop, drop, drop. What if this were the other way around and Southampton ...more
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Nov 2, 14 10:10 AM
This article states that Southampton's tax will go up $330 at the end of ten years and Tuckahoe's tax will go down $480. TUCKAHOE TAXES WILL GO DOWN$4800 NOT $480!!! Is this a HUGE MISPRINT or was this the REAL INFO that was given to the press?? When the misprint was brought to the attention of Dr. Farina and members of school board on Thursday night at the North Sea Community house and the response was that they have no control over misprints with a smirk. They made no inference at all to attempting ...more
By rl (11), southampton on Nov 7, 14 6:12 AM
The online version of this article has been corrected to reflect the accurate decrease in Tuckahoe taxes. The mistake was a calculating error on The Press's part, the incorrect figure was not supplied by officials from either school district.
By Bill Sutton, Managing Editor (117), Westhampton Beach on Nov 7, 14 9:38 AM
You want to talk about predicted FUTURE disparity? Lets talk about CURRENT disparity: your $2,000 taxed home in SH is $6,000 in Tuckahoe now. Putting the kids together in one district will make the TRUE DISPARITY into an equality. Maybe we can both pay the same $3,000 for the same house on either side of the line. Disparity becomes equality.

PLEASE CAST YOUR VOTE TO HELP YOUR COMMUNITY. Do not divide us. Please.

(Figures used are clearly not exact- used to make reference ...more
By Shinnecock Hills family (59), Southampton on Nov 11, 14 8:15 PM
Will the press print the correction in next weeks paper addition?
By rl (11), southampton on Nov 7, 14 10:23 AM
Yes, a correction will appear in next week's edition.
By Bill Sutton, Managing Editor (117), Westhampton Beach on Nov 7, 14 11:24 AM
You should see the bs the district sent in the mail it is a one sided piece of crap. It doesnt say that Tuckahoes taxes are dropping 4500. I'm amazed Fred Thiele is for this merger. The best part of the paper was that Southampton would lose all Tuckahoes students. Really a calculating figure that is off ten fold?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 9, 14 12:01 PM