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Feb 25, 2009 9:33 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe School will seek voter's OK to spend $1.1 million on two properties

Feb 25, 2009 9:33 AM

The Tuckahoe School District will ask voters next month to approve the $1.1 million purchase of two properties—a vacant lot and a private home—that district officials say must be acquired now to ensure that Tuckahoe Common School has room to grow.

If taxpayers give Tuckahoe permission to buy the two properties during a public vote on Tuesday, March 17, they will be signing off on spending up to $600,000 of past years’ surplus tax money and another $600,000 out of the district’s capital reserve fund. The $105,000 above and beyond the purchase price of the properties would be used for expenses related to the acquisitions.

Voters approved the creation of a capital reserve fund three years ago and now are being asked to expand the scope of the reserve to include purchasing real estate. Currently, the fund can be used only for school expansion.

“Once property is gone, it’s gone,” School Board Chairman Robert Grisnik said on Monday, as he explained why the board wants to purchase the two parcels, which total about 2 acres, now, while they are still available.

Because the board plans to use surplus funds, the acquisitions would not result in any property tax increases, according to Mr. Grisnik.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, March 17, between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., in the Tuckahoe School gymnasium at 468 Magee Street in Southampton. Voters wishing to use an absentee ballot must apply to the district clerk at least seven days before the vote.

A public hearing on the proposed purchases will be held on Tuesday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the Tuckahoe School library.

The Tuckahoe School serves 367 students from pre-K through eighth grade—older students are sent to Southampton High School in the Southampton School District—and enrollment is increasing, according to District Clerk Grace Kauth. The school’s capacity is unclear.

Mr. Grisnik said he could not project when the School Board would want to start an expansion, but said given the current economy it would not be anytime soon. Even so, Mr. Grisnik pointed out that prekindergarten classes are taking place in portable classrooms, which were supposed to be temporary. The school guidance counselor, psychologist and speech teacher are also housed in the portable units.

Tuckahoe has been using the portables for about eight years, and a new roof was put on last week, Mr. Grisnik said. Eventually, district officials would like to replace them with permanent classrooms.

The house the district is eyeing, at 46 Sebonac Road, is to the east of the school’s soccer field and comes with a price tag of $515,000. It sits on half an acre that belonged to the late Stanley Oldakowski, a retired Tuckahoe School custodian and bus driver who died in April.

“In his will, he had a stipulation that his family should offer this piece of property to the school district before offering it to anyone else,” Mr. Grisnik said.

The district negotiated a price of $580,000 for the vacant lot, a 1.5-acre patch of woods at 430 Magee Street, just south of the Tuckahoe playground. The lot belongs to Elizabeth McDonald, who lives across the street.

“She’s had several offers on it, but she’s always wanted the school to be able to have it,” said Betsy Ingram, Ms. McDonald’s daughter. Her mother, who turned 94 last week, is a former district treasurer at Tuckahoe and her late husband, William McDonald, was a School Board member for more than 20 years.

Ms. McDonald is a member of the Hubbard family that once owned farmland stretching from Tuckahoe Road east to Sandy Hollow Road, including the land the Tuckahoe School now sits on and the woods it is looking to purchase, Ms. Ingram said. “The family was integral in establishing the school,” she added.

Mr. Grisnik said the school will likely use the woods as a shaded public picnic area for the time being. That would please her mother to no end, Ms. Ingram said. “It’s just been her joy to have the woods there.”

What will happen with the Oldakowski house is still up for discussion, Mr. Grisnik said, suggesting that it could be used for offices, prekindergarten classrooms, or a rental to bring in some income for the district.

When the time comes for the school to expand, the house and the trees can stay standing, Mr. Grisnik predicted. He also noted that both properties passed environmental tests of soil and groundwater—tests New York State required before giving the district the green light to try to purchase the land.

Mr. Grisnik said Tuckahoe first looked to purchase the McDonald and Oldakowski properties in 1997, when the district was planning an expansion of the school, but neither owner was interested in selling then. The district was still able to go through with that expansion in 2001, adding nine classrooms and a cafetorium, but with only a one-time variance from the state Department of Education. He said the Education Department explicitly stated that the district would never get another variance waiving acreage requirements.

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Yeah, right. They're going to use our tax money in the end and get the variance they want for "their" kids. Please.....
By BeachQueen (8), Shinnecock Hills on Feb 25, 09 7:53 PM
Any more expansion of our schools will invariably lead to an increase in our Real Estate taxes. Now, if you really think this is a good idea perhaps you should just pay for it yourselves! We are after all in a recession...Something the schools out here seem to have no concept of......Hasn't it occurred to anyone that these days 75-80% of the property owners out here don't currently have any children in the local Public school system and probably won't in the future......
By pmofo (37), East Quogue on Feb 26, 09 3:31 AM
There's a good chance pmofo and beachqueen are uneducated...but if you were educated in the public school system, someone paid for you to go to school..regarless of the results.

there are adult communities in florida that are waiting for you. perhaps if you don't like paying taxes you can vote republican.

By hamptons surfer (79), southampton on Feb 26, 09 7:00 AM
The Town Board just quietly approved a PDD that will add 16 new homes on two acres. And they are considering two more plus now I read about some $3 million affordable housing property here paid for by taxpayers? (I am told at the school it is the same attorney for all but one and that he is related to high level town hall staff.) Why all this development here ? Now we have to pay for a school expansion.
By Hampton (50), Westhampton on Feb 26, 09 9:24 AM
I'm kind of torn on this one.

How much room do they really need to expand? Why not just expand on the current building again when they need to? It's not like they need to build ball fields or a bigger playground. I pay double what a resident down the street pays for being in the SH school district.

I can understand the school district wanting to buy the properties. I would want the same if I was on the board. But can the surplus be used on things that better the education ...more
By landarchi (33), Southampton on Feb 26, 09 9:33 AM
To hamptons surfer...... I don't think you are, (to coin a phrase),"looking at the the big picture"...You lash out before thinking and are avoiding the issue...As for your other comments they are way off base... My family has lived out here since the 50's... I voted for Obama and contrary to what you may think... I have never attended a public school and won't be old enough for several decades to get into an "adult community'.....
By pmofo (37), East Quogue on Feb 26, 09 2:03 PM
Surplus should be spent to improve the school now, not to plan for future expansion. There is a mass exodus of people from the district and, given the state of the economy and the lack of affordable housing, that exodus will only grow. I remember last year there was talk of students using 20 year old text books. Use the money to buy new text books, to buy instruments for music instruction, pay for an expanded after school program, to pay teachers, etc. On the other hand, if you have to purchase ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Mar 4, 09 12:02 PM
Tuckahoe taxpayers: read the above and please Vote NO! on March 17th. Out of towners whose primary residence is in Tuckahoe must get an absentee ballot from the District Clerk in Tuckahoe School and get it back in time for your vote to count (they don't make any of this easy). There is no need and no urgency to buy these properties. Contrary to the Board's reassurance that it won't cost tax payers anything -- is $105,000 nothing? -- it will end up costing a bundle in the very near future. ...more
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Mar 4, 09 2:38 PM
They are kidding!!! Expansion!!!!! This district should consolidate with Southampton, another small district helping to make the cost of educating a child in line with the rest of Long Island. The East End School Districts are the laughing stock of Long Island! The boards need to STOP giving our money away with wasteful management. Consolidate, cut back and give the working class tax payor on long island a break (before we are all forced to leave)!
By powerwalker (52), Southampton on Mar 7, 09 6:11 PM