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Oct 24, 2012 9:03 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton And Tuckahoe School Districts Begin Merger Feasibility Study Process

Oct 24, 2012 10:05 AM

Tuckahoe and Southampton school district officials officially set the wheels in motion to conduct a merger feasibility study on Tuesday, as both boards sent out a request for proposals, seeking a consultant to conduct the study.

The Tuckahoe School Board, taxpayers and parents met for the first time on Monday since Superintendent Chris Dyer announced the districts would be performing a study. While officials don’t have many answers at this point, they took questions about the logistics of the study, alternatives to a merger with Southampton, and what the district is doing about high tuition rates for high school students.

Talks about consolidation and shared services have long been a topic between the two communities, especially in light of the state-mandated 2-percent tax levy cap, increasing financial pressures and other state mandates. Just this year, Southampton and Tuckahoe schools, along with several East End districts, filed a joint application with the Department of State for a $200,000 grant to finance an efficiency study, which would have looked at the possibility of merging all or some of the districts. The application was not approved, the districts learned last week, and so Tuckahoe and Southampton are marching on with their own study.

Already, the study’s tentative schedule has changed, according to Mr. Dyer, who said a consultant will be selected by November 26, three weeks later than originally proposed. Until the study is completed and results are shared with the public, which could happen as late as January, it is hard to say what lies ahead for both districts and their communities.

Concerned parents and taxpayers on Monday questioned Tuckahoe officials’ decision to take part in a consolidation study with Southampton, citing current grievances about the high tuition the school pays for its students who chose to attend Southampton High School.

Since officials don’t expect results of the study until early 2013, Tuckahoe School officials are beginning to look at tuition costs for the 2013-14 school year, and Southampton has offered a lower price in exchange for exclusivity.

Currently, Tuckahoe pays tuition for 95 of its students who attend Southampton High School, and pays for 47 students who attend Westhampton Beach High School. Mr. Dyer said he expects 44 students to graduate at the end of this school year—the highest number of eighth-graders in quite some time. Worries about what such an expense will do to the district have bubbled to the top of many Tuckahoe Board of Education meetings.

But recently, the Southampton School District offered to lower tuition to $19,300 for the 2013-14 school year—a 15-percent reduction for general education students—but only if Tuckahoe agrees to send their students exclusively to Southampton High School, rather than offering the option of attending Westhampton Beach High School. Southampton offered a tentative 25-percent reduction for special education students, at $57,000, for the same year.

The deal would bring Southampton’s tuition to a level just under Westhampton Beach’s tuition, which is estimated to be $21,000 for general education students and $61,000 for special education students. No other schools have come forward with formal tuition proposals for the 2013-14 school year, according to Mr. Dyer.

The idea of a feasibility study between Tuckahoe and Southampton has some parents worried that their children who attend Westhampton Beach High School, a less expensive option, would be forced to switch schools midway through their high school careers. Officials say it is too early to say that would be the case, and said the study would reveal more on that front.

If Tuckahoe decides to make a deal, Dr. Boyes said the choice of whether current Tuckahoe students would be pulled from Westhampton Beach was not up to Southampton. “That would be Tuckahoe’s decision,” he said. “There is no expectation on our part that the students currently at Westhampton Beach would need to go to Southampton High School.” Board President Dr. Daniel Crough said Tuckahoe officials have “a desire to keep kids in the school where they are right now.”

Dr. Crough added that when more proposed tuition rates are gathered at the beginning of the budgeting season in early 2013, a decision could be made on whether to accept the exclusivity deal with Southampton. But the study will remain an undercurrent while Tuckhoe figures out what to do in the short term.

“Southampton is the logical choice to do a study on,” Dr. Crough said. “Tuckahoe and Southampton share a long history of being a single community, whether its through Scouting, Little League or the ZIP Code.”

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In addition - the school is supporting with all these money woes to fund the killing of old growth trees and 30 yr old hedges to put in a sidewalk which is unnecessary and promotes the unsafe crossing of children for a price tag to tax payers of over 45,000 - is is shameful
By hobcurator (1), southampton on Oct 24, 12 5:01 PM
Westhampton Beach tuition is under $20,000, not $21,000 as stated in the article,
By coach (4), Westhampton Beach on Oct 24, 12 9:12 PM
If Tuckahoe and Southampton from a "community" why have they been fleecing Tuckahoe taxpayers for years. Westhampton has no new numbers, they are using this years, as coach said, and here it the current breakdown:

This year Southampton High School charged Tuckahoe taxpayers $22,695.00 per regular ed student per year and $76,000.00 per special ed student per year. Westhampton on the other hand charged $19,000.00 per regular ed student per year and only $58,072.00 per special ed student ...more
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Oct 25, 12 9:02 AM
Southampton needs the money to keep all those bloated salaries in place. Why is it that SHSD spends more than WHB but gets worst results ????
By sandie (15), speonk on Oct 25, 12 1:20 PM