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Nov 5, 2013 1:02 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe Officials Uncertain About Future Of School District

Nov 6, 2013 10:42 AM

Tuckahoe School Board members had little information to offer about 50 concerned parents at a meeting on Monday night, less than one week after a straw vote to fold the Tuckahoe School District into Southampton’s failed in Southampton.

With more unanswered questions raised—including where Tuckahoe students will attend high school next year, and whether a merger is still possible—administrators said many answers will not be available until January at the earliest, when tuition fees are finalized for several East End school districts that Tuckahoe students might attend.

At the moment, Tuckahoe Board President Bob Grisnik announced, the district is moving forward as if it will be open for business next year; he noted that there are some reserve funds available for the 2014-15 school year. The Tuckahoe district, he said, is exploring all of its options to keep the Tuckahoe School operating without cutting educational programs, including talking with several East End districts about lower tuition rates, as well as exploring a cheaper health care option for employees and a possible bond referendum.

At the same time, Tuckahoe officials still hope to continue talks with Southampton about a possible merger. According to Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer, the school district’s attorneys clarified over the weekend that the district does not have to wait any specified time to hold another vote, as was previously thought. If the vote had gone through to the second, final vote, and that had failed, the district would have had to wait one year before presenting it to the voters again.

However, because last week’s vote was a straw vote, both districts have the opportunity to modify the plan and bring it back to the taxpayers whenever they want. However, Mr. Dyer said it is unlikely that will happen in less than six months.

The district is also working with East End legislators, State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., to change state law to allow for different tax districts within one school district. That would allow the merger to go through with little to no impact on Southampton resident taxpayers.

“Tonight, we are here with sad hearts because of what happened last Tuesday night with the merger,” Mr. Grisnik said at the board meeting on Monday night. “We all know that for the betterment of the whole community a merger is the way to go. We got a bump in the road, but now we are going to continue forward—we have a school year to prepare for.”

Last week, Southampton residents voted down the proposal, 1,075 to 693, which would have merged the Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts, effective July 1, 2014. In Tuckahoe, taxpayers overwhelmingly voted in favor of the proposition, 565 to 35—a moot point once their neighbors to the east rejected the proposition, as state law dictates that both would have to approve the measure separately in order for it to move forward to a joint vote of the two districts.

Immediate Plans For District

For now, district officials must move on under the assumption that Tuckahoe will still be a separate school district come September. The board will immediately begin working on an operating budget for the district.

On Monday, board member Daniel Crough said the district did save some money in the reserve fund in case the merger failed. He also said that while the district will be able to manage for next year, the 2015-16 year will not be as easy.

The district, according to Mr. Grisnik, has several options to save money moving forward. First, the board will review contractual payments to see where money can be saved, or what contracts can be eliminated. For months, the district has also mulled switching to a less expensive health insurance option that will still give teachers and staff the benefits they need, while saving the district money.

Another option, Mr. Grisnik said, would be a bond vote. The district, he said, may be forced to borrow money to save educational programs.

“We do not want to compromise on any of the educational programs that we have,” he said. “We feel we have a great program for all of our children here.”

The biggest hurdle for the district next year will be tuition payments. Administrators will have to find a way to save on tuition while continuing to educate high school-age students as they leave the eighth grade. Tuckahoe administrators have already begun talks with the Southampton, Hampton Bays and Westhampton school districts, and they plan to include Sag Harbor.

On Tuesday night, Southampton Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina announced that after the straw vote, the district offered Tuckahoe the same exclusivity deal as this year at the same rate, $19,300 for a general education student and $57,000 for a special education student, provided all of the Tuckahoe students attend Southampton next year.

While the schools may provide cheaper alternatives to Southampton, many parents on Monday night expressed concern about the process, saying they do not want their children attending Hampton Bays or Westhampton Beach because they want them to be a part of the Southampton community.

Continuing Merger Plans

Even though the merger vote failed, Tuckahoe administrators are still hoping to move forward with the annexation and have made it clear that a merger is still the first choice. On Monday night, officials said the first step is a meeting with Southampton administrators to see if they are still interested.

On Tuesday, Dr. Farina announced that the board will still be working on more solid numbers for the merger proposal, noting that a proposed combined budget, if a vote were to pass, will be presented to the community before another vote is put to the taxpayers. That would give a more realistic base for the tax rate, district budget, and the tax levy.

The announcement was in response to multiple community members who said there was too much mis-information spread in the weeks before the vote. The community asked for the board to be more open, and give more information to the public if the merger is voted on again.

The proposition, he said, will be brought back to the taxpayers after legislators have a chance to try and change regulations to allow two tax areas in the school district.

Last week, Mr. Thiele said that although the merger is on hold right now, he and Mr. LaValle are still working to make it happen in the future. He said that in January, he and Mr. LaValle will be able to petition the state to eliminate any merger-related tax increase for Southampton voters, while still decreasing taxes for Tuckahoe residents.

“This is still just the beginning of the discussion,” he said. “We have the ability to work with our colleagues in Albany and the governor’s office wants to promote consolidation where it makes sense. I am hopeful we will have a receptive ear in Albany and can come up with options to make this, from a financial point of view, palatable for everybody now.”

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Families need answers NOW on High School for next year.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Nov 5, 13 1:06 PM
From what I understand, SHHS was charging Tuckahoe a heck of a lot more in tuition per student the WHB and then TUCK granted an exclusive (believing the merger would pass). Is Southampton now going to raise their tuiton back to pre-exclusive prices? If so, Tuckahoe needs to send graduating children eslewhere. What a short-sighted group this board has proved to be.
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Nov 5, 13 2:43 PM
shortsighted, sneaky and stupid
By photo friend (31), southampton on Nov 5, 13 9:11 PM
Why is Bridgehampton not being considered? It is another small district that surely could welcome the tuition of Tuckahoe students.
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Nov 6, 13 12:41 AM

" According to Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer, the school district’s attorneys clarified over the weekend that the district does not have to wait any specified time to hold another vote, as was previously thought."

All through their presentations, the Tuck Board has been scaring the wits out of Tuck parents into incoherence by saying if the vote fails, they will have to wait one year before any further merger with ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Nov 5, 13 5:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Can't believe I actually agree with you Obbservant but I do. That board meeting was the biggest waste of time, truly insulting to us as the taxpayers who hand over our hard earned money for them to take care of and use wisely. A COMPLELETE DISAPPOINTMENT. It really is time for new people up there. These are the same people for the past 30 years ENOUGH ALREADY. and stop begging Southampton to take us. They don't understand how we have subsidized their district for all these years and helped ...more
By photo friend (31), southampton on Nov 5, 13 9:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
" Our problem is even some of our own community members can't see past SH as the only possibility and sounded last night they were kissing the behinds of our board, commending them for a job well done, are you kidding me....pathetic and disgusting." What an epiphany isn't it?

A job well done? Everyone with an IQ exceeding single digits is well aware of the disaster this Board has wrought in this community - bottom of the barrel test scores, sky high, unaffordable, union compensation, benefits, ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Nov 6, 13 8:48 AM
They cannot see past SH because of their personal ties to that school which has played them like a cheap violin from day one.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Nov 6, 13 8:48 AM
Wow! You said another mouthful. I was the pathetic and disgusting community member who commended our board and administration you so thoroughly undressed in yet another anonymous post. If your IQ is so high and think you have all of the answers than I would suggest running for the board. If you are half as good at complex problem solving as you are with insults and condescension, then we could sure use someone like you right now. Start with posting your real name. Just a suggestion. ...more
By seanhattrick (2), southampton on Nov 8, 13 1:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Tuckahoe board is clueless"
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Nov 6, 13 8:15 AM
There are very few choices, but one is clear: Tuck would be better off without Gresnick and Steudte as both are clueless about finances. They want to spend more or borrow more - that's it. It's time to tighten the belt, reduce staff, cut nonessential programs and negotiate with SH for lower tuition to SHHS. And, yes, taxes may go up, too. These men made the beds we're lying in today. But I'm not getting a good night's sleep, are you?
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Nov 6, 13 8:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
You need to add Dan Crough to your list, he is the one who led this charge.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Nov 6, 13 8:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
Dodger, I did some digging after reading your comments and came away with some very interesting information about our board members, none of it good. Back a number of years ago there was a lot of the same talk that I have recently heard again, these guys have NO business being on board. Also a while ago there was a board member who did try very hard to clean up the mess academically and financially and got a lot of grief for it,, but it is to that board member's credit that at least the kids got ...more
By photo friend (31), southampton on Nov 6, 13 7:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
Again SH offers reduced tuition ONLY if they are granted an exclusive? Will the board play hostage once again? If WHB agrees to the same tuition cost why grant an exclusive to SHHS? Enough of these districts using children as pawns.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Nov 8, 13 8:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
We have a fresh opportunity for the Tuckahoe board to finally represent all families and children in the district and for SHHS and Tuckahoe to stop talking about "community" and prove it: If Tuckahoe is going to grant another exclusive to SHHS they should only do so if there is a guarantee that the few reamining students at WHB in 2014-15 and 2015-16 be allowed to stay there until they graduate. The tuition costs are nearly identical and it is time for SHHS to start thinking about all kids and ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Nov 8, 13 9:05 AM
1 member liked this comment
All of you, except for Mr. Hattrick should be ashamed of yourselves for writing such insulting and uneducated comments. Southampton is not a BLUE RIBBON school, so get off your high horse and stop condescending our school and especially our children. There is a BIG church on Hill Street that you should all visit to confess your sins. FYI do not write comments unless you can spell properly, its embarrassing to you fellow Southamptonites.
nicole guillo
By local39 (14), southampton on Nov 8, 13 2:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well well well, these posts are getting more interesting, Local 39, It is you that appears to be on a "high horse". You seem to think you are so much more educated than others based upon your excellence at spelling but you show just how uneducated you are by not being able to tolerate opinions that are different than yours. You are right SH is not a "blue ribbon" school so should we all just accept mediocrity as a the norm and not try for to reach for something better? And by the way, I do go to ...more
By photo friend (31), southampton on Nov 9, 13 11:50 AM
The only anti-tuckahoe comment here is by Observant, the others pertain to the board which handled this entire process in a sloppy and subversive style that suited their own personal agendas. It should be noted that the board, 2 members of which have been in their seats for years, takes no responsibility either for the awful merger roll out or the steep decline of the school's financial mess. Yes, there were a number of outside forces that contributed, but mismanagement also played a roll.

As ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Nov 8, 13 3:24 PM
Sorry again Progressnow, cesspool is what a livid taxpayer in Southampton called what the Board has wrought in the Tuck school district and what many of those present in that Southampton community meeting agreed with. I am only repeating what many Southampton taxpayers feel about the merger, a conviction they took with them to the polls and what cannot be ignored by you!

No need to kill the messenger who simply delivered the clear verdict to you of the Village. Cesspool does not refer to ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Nov 9, 13 1:07 AM