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Dec 15, 2010 8:56 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe School Board Sticks With Referendum Plan

Dec 15, 2010 8:56 AM

Despite angry criticism by district residents and pleas to postpone an upcoming special vote, the Tuckahoe School Board on Monday night decided to move forward with holding a referendum on December 21 asking voters to approve spending $95,000 to renovate an on-campus house for use as the school superintendent’s home.

Taxpayers’ concerns largely focused on finances and a perceived lack of transparency on the board, but also involved complaints about the timing of the vote.

One resident in attendance at Monday’s board meeting, contractor Joe Mullen, questioned the estimated cost of the project, arguing that “$95,000 would get you a bathroom.” He called the price tag given by the district a “pipe dream” and added that he believes the true cost would far exceed this estimate—at a minimum of about $200,000.

The district is asking voters via a special election on Tuesday, December 21, to approve spending $95,000—from an unappropriated reserve fund that holds nearly $660,000—to refurbish and bring up to code an approximately 1,600-square-foot house at 46 Sebonac Road, east of the school’s athletic field. The plan is to rent the house to Superintendent-Principal Joseph “Chris” Dyer once the renovations are complete. School Board Chairman Robert Grisnik has said the rent would be set at fair-market rate and would be determined through an appraisal once the renovations, if approved, are finished. He also noted that because Mr. Dyer does not participate in the district’s health care program, an amount equal to what he would receive under the health plan could be applied to the rent. Mr. Dyer currently rents a house in Shinnecock Hills on a month-by-month basis.

The district purchased the house and half-acre property it sits on for $515,000 in 2009, following voter approval.

At Monday’s meeting, nearly 40 community members turned out for the meeting, one of the largest turnouts for a Tuckahoe School Board meeting in 2010.

The district’s architect, Paul Rogers of Chaleff & Rogers Architects in Water Mill, briefly presented a plan for the house and told the attendees it involved a minimal amount of renovation to make the building habitable. All the finishes would be new, the floors would be redone, air conditioning would be added, and an oil-heating system would be replaced with gas, among other changes, he said.

Many parents, including Daphne Gil and Michael Hadix—both of whom sought seats on the School Board last April, but ultimately lost to Daniel Crough—said they would rather see the money go directly toward educational uses. They cited poor test scores, outdated textbooks and obsolete computers as examples of where money could be funneled. Another resident, David D’Agostino, said the district could purchase an iPad for every student in the school for the cost of the project.

“It was supposed to be a community information session, but Grisnik had almost had no information,” parent Rick Sobrevinas said on Tuesday of the previous night’s meeting, which spanned more than two hours. “He could provide very little information.”

The board, for example, told the community that the property was acquired to conform with New York State Education Department property-to-footprint building ratios, but since the district said it also acquired a variance from the state, residents questioned the board as to why the compliance was still needed.

Mr. Grisnik said he did not have any figures regarding the state requirements and reiterated that the acquisition put made the district more in compliance with the state, but could offer no specifics.

Mr. Sobrevinas, who serves as a financial advisor to Southampton Town officials, also questioned the district’s assertion that using funds from an unappropriated fund would not raise taxes. After the meeting, he argued that the board members were being “deceptive” because if the board drew from its undesignated fund, taxes would have to be raised in order to keep that fund at its required 4-percent of the total budget.

Lack of answers to such questions led some, like resident Frances Genovese, to urge the board to delay the vote. Also at issue was the date of the referendum, four days before Christmas. Residents said many senior citizens are wintering in warmer climes at this time, but Mr. Grisnik countered that school is still in session on December 21.

When Mr. Sobrevinas asked anyone in attendance in favor of the vote to raise their hands, no one did.

Ernest Unger, a resident of Shinnecock Hills, urged the board to tear the house down altogether—even though district officials said doing so and building a new structure in its place would be even more expensive. Several people questioned the board about its transparency regarding the plan, noting that work on the house has already begun, including some sheetrock removal.

“You have to have a plan to give to the community to vote on,” Mr. Grisnik responded. “We have been elected by you to run this school district. This is what this board has decided to do. We are presenting this plan to you and we’re asking you to vote on it. That’s it.” He added that some sheetrock that was “bad, anyway” had been removed by school custodians.

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vote NO!
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 14, 10 4:26 PM
The decision of the school board to renovate a house for an administrator’s uses is once again another example of the disconnection between the board and the needs of the students and families. Last year, the school board also made the decision to eliminate teacher assistants which directly impacted the students’ education after the board promised in early spring that they would not do so. It is disappointing once again see board members and administration investing in a venture that ...more
By montgomerygal (1), Southampton on Dec 14, 10 4:54 PM
2 members liked this comment


By Common Sense (56), Southampton on Dec 14, 10 7:07 PM
... if he is going to rent it at fair-market value - no problem. Why postpone the vote? If you don't like it - vote no.
By William Rodney (558), southampton on Dec 14, 10 7:51 PM
Ever hear the phrase "in kind services"? They're not asking him to pay
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 14, 10 8:09 PM
to razza5351:

That's not what was said in the original article. Therein the Board said that it would charge the Superintendent market rent.
By highhatsize (4180), East Quogue on Dec 14, 10 9:59 PM
Fair market value rent, at a reduced rate due to his lack of participation in the employee health plan.
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Dec 15, 10 12:34 PM
We did! get rid of the school board!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Dec 26, 10 9:07 AM
Although the makeup of the board has changed, their obstinate refusal to listen to their constituents has not. Despite the completely reasonable pleas of a wide range of district voters, all of whom were against this expenditure (appx 30 people?) the board refused even to move the date from the 21st of December, a time when so many residents and their families are away for the holidays, to a time when more voters could be heard.

More importantly, the board was unable to answer some extremely ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Dec 14, 10 10:20 PM
If I understood correctly...in lieu of paying a full market rent Mr. Dyer's rent would be offset by the amount it would otherwise cost the district to purchase health insurance for him and his family. This is correct I presume.

I don't know the right insurance rate for this situation. I presume it would cost the district $ 2,000/month to insure Mr. Dyer and his family. If he forfeits this insurance because perhaps the family has another better health plan fine. Now it seems to me the district ...more
By V.Tomanoku (788), southampton on Dec 15, 10 2:07 PM
Mr. Dyer receives health benefits from the military. Hiring him enabled the board to save those dollars, but now they are offering to pay his rent in exchange while at the same time saying that the house will be "assed at fair market value". Who are they trying to fool?

They are, in effect, giving him extra money not part of his contract, unless, of course, they already made a promise that we do not know about, which is what I suspect. Either way, not only does this mean that the school ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Dec 15, 10 3:04 PM
Dumb Dumb Dumb.
By Southampton Truth (10), Southampton on Dec 15, 10 5:17 PM
School Districts and Municipalities have "opt out" options for health insurance for all employees, as health benefits are part of the compensation package of employment, and the employee opting out usually gets a fixed amount per year. Housing is also considered, by the IRS, as employment compensation and must be claimed on tax returns. I am surprised Mr. Dyer cannot afford to purchase a home here in the Hamptons on the $155K he is receiving with so much inventory and bank owed properties.............I ...more
By DiDi (16), Southampton on Dec 16, 10 9:18 AM
Thank you for the clarification.
By V.Tomanoku (788), southampton on Dec 18, 10 8:31 AM
This is not correct. While it is true there are emloyees may opt out, it is not true that they are further compensated by doing so. You are offered the standard package and if you don't want it you are not entitled to anything else in return.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Dec 26, 10 9:10 AM
Can someone check and see if the single family house falls under the State Education Department or Local Building Department. If it is not governed by the SED it is still under the control of Southampton Town Building Department. In order to gut the interior of a house down to the studs throughout, they would require an interior alteration permit. I did not see a permit posted on site when I looked. If governed by the SED they would also need to be advised........ Do they have a permit? Or did Griznik ...more
By Common Scense (24), Southampton on Dec 16, 10 9:45 AM
NYS Ed has jurisdiction. The Town has no authority on State property.

By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Dec 22, 10 8:03 PM
Did you look at this link? I see that a letter of intent is the only item checked. Does anyone know what has to be approved before any construction can be started? Looking at the other school projects, voter approval dates came before site plan approvals. There is a number to call at NYSED: IF there are any questions as to what work does, or does not require a building permit, call any Project Manager at the Office of Facilities Planning -- (518) 474-3906
By furpel (6), southampton on Dec 24, 10 6:38 PM

"Or did Griznik ...more say the heck with them, I don’t need no permit."

For people who have been involved with Tuckahoe for over 10 years as I have, everyone knows Grisnik does whatever he wants, wherever and whenever he wants and the hell with the little people - the taxpayers. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts he didn't have a permit or notify the proper authorities. You see, it's his kingdom!!!!

Just listen to Grisnik's attitude dripping with contempt when many ...more
By Obbservant (446), southampton on Dec 16, 10 12:34 PM
How many people are on that board? He had to have at least a couple more of them agree with him.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 16, 10 1:38 PM
No actually, he's not saying shove it, he's saying lets vote. Do you have any idea how many construction projects of the same magnitude in the past were pushed through without a vote? At least we have a say.
By Academics (14), Southampton on Dec 16, 10 11:03 PM
Yeah, let's vote - but let's do so before answering important questions and while voters are away for the holidays.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Dec 17, 10 4:19 PM
I went to the town.
By furpel (6), southampton on Dec 24, 10 5:51 PM
How about adding becoming union free to the referendum and getting a bigger board, maybe with a bigger board we'll get some sane people. Heck at least they're not stealing from us... wait maybe they are but they don't mean to-
By frayman (10), southampton on Dec 16, 10 9:10 PM
It's time for Tuckahoe to merge with Southampton School District.
By interestedtaxpayer (21), southampton on Dec 17, 10 8:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
I was sent this link and now I agree so I am passing on to you - visit tuckahoevoter.com
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Dec 17, 10 8:26 AM
It would seem the basic question here is why should the taxpayers subsidize the housing of a district employee.
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Dec 18, 10 9:56 AM
Another reason why the district should be union free. The Three wisemen have too much power, board needs to be larger and more diverse. Taxpayers need to vote NO on this referendum and vote out the current school board members!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Dec 19, 10 10:14 AM
An important bit of information regarding the Tuesday, December 21 referendum vote (that's tomorrow at the Tuckahoe School between the hours of 11AM and 8PM):

In order to vote in the referendum you DO NOT need to be registered to vote. This means that if, for instance, you have an 18 year-old or older who lives here but did not register, he or she can still vote in the referendum. If, however, you are registered, you must be registered at your Tuckahoe address and not another address.

To ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Dec 20, 10 10:02 AM
There is an article on another local blog about an increase in childhood poverty in our neighborhoods (see below) and the Tuckahoe School board wants to spend $95,000.00 to build on-campus housing for a superintendent making $155,000/year plus nearly $35,000 in benefits and provide the rent as payment-in-kind? If you are not outraged by this, you need to check your pulse.

VOTE NO! Tuesday, December 21 at Tuckahoe School from 11AM to 8PM

"The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Dec 20, 10 1:16 PM
Photo slide show is no longer working for me, can you please check it out for us SH Press.
By Common Scense (24), Southampton on Dec 21, 10 12:28 PM
Sorry 'bout that...we're working to fix it.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Dec 21, 10 2:18 PM
Congratulations to Tuckahoe voters. The referendum failed 249 to 70 (those numbers may not be exact, but it failed by a wide margin)
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Dec 21, 10 9:07 PM
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