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Dec 20, 2013 2:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe Exploring Tax Options For School Merger

Dec 20, 2013 3:14 PM

The Tuckahoe School Board continues to pursue a merger with the Southampton School District. But two months after the first, failed attempt to have Southampton annex Tuckahoe, officials in Tuckahoe are trying to figure out how to mitigate the cost for Southampton taxpayers, who voted the proposal down.

Since Southampton’s taxpayers would otherwise see an increase in taxes if a merger went forward, one option could be to create two separate tax districts within the unified school district—a move that would require legislative intervention, as it is currently unconstitutional.

If state legislation changed that restriction, Tuckahoe officials said, the district could consider a referendum, similar to one recently passed on funding a beach nourishment project, in which Tuckahoe taxpayers could vote to raise their own taxes to ensure that there is little to no impact on Southampton voters.

“We could follow one model along the beach, where they leveled the surtax to pay for beach nourishment,” board member Dr. Daniel Crough said. “Something similar could happen here.”

While that is one option, board members are looking at several other options for funding the merger. They include finding retroactive building aid for the Southampton School District to mitigate taxes, and using state financial aid in the first few years of the merger instead of spreading it out over 10 years.

“There were three or four other avenues also being approached,” Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer said. “Assemblymen [Fred W.] Thiele and Senator [Kenneth] LaValle came down and met with us, and they were very positive in that meeting and said they were going to look at ways they might be able to find support for Tuckahoe.”

While Mr. Dyer said he is optimistic about the future of the merger, he said much of its success will depend on the new proposed tax rate. If the districts can find a way to make the merger beneficial for both districts, it will make it easier to bring it back to a vote. Mr. Dyer also said much more information must be shared with both communities before it can be brought back to the taxpayers.

“The way the taxes for school districts in the state of New York work, if there is a merger, both district residents pay an equal amount,” he said. “With this merger piece, rather than having an 8.7-percent increase for Southampton and a 65-percent decrease for Tuckahoe, maybe we could set it up so there would be very little, if no, impact for Southampton, and maybe only something like a 45-percent decrease for Tuckahoe. Right now, it is just not possible.”

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Let's lay this out in simple terms:

1) Tuckahoe tax rate is over three times that of Southampton

2) For over ten years Tuckahoe pays exhorbitant tuition rates to send its high school students to Southampton

3) A merger vote is put on the table and Southampton residents say, "To heck with that school and it's kids. I'm not paying an extra $200 a year to help them"

4) The Tuckahoe school board decides to petition the state to create a special tax district so that ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jan 10, 14 8:36 AM
New article in the Press about possible lawsuit against golf courses for tax issues.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 10, 14 8:41 AM
"Tuckahoe taxpayers could vote to raise their own taxes to ensure that there is little to no impact on Southampton voters." Seriously? Why would they?
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jan 10, 14 9:06 AM
So last time around Tuckahoe voted for a tax decrease and Southampton voted against a tax increase, the solution these people are propsing: Tuckahoe voters should vote to pay more so that Southampton receives all of the benefits but none of the burdens? Yeah, good luck with that.
By SidViscuous (26), on Jan 10, 14 9:16 AM
When you buy your house you consider the quality of the school district and tax rates, among many other considerations. All of those considerations affect the price paid for a home. As a general matter, a house in a school district with lower taxes will cost more than the same type of house in a district with higher taxes. Now, some in Tuckahoe think that residents who paid more for their homes in Southampton should lose the better tax rate that went their higher priced home. When tax bases ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 10, 14 11:52 AM
Tuckahoes cute little private like school house has been a perk for all residents of the district for decades. Now the cost has caught up, and they want the school to remain, but Southampton residents to chip in. Sounds like some sort of Obama chip in bail out idea. Another joke
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 10, 14 7:16 PM
2 members liked this comment
Tuckahoe has been a "perk" for Southampton SD residents as well, since Tuckahoe taxpayers have had to absorb the tax breaks given to golf courses and have absorbed exorbitant tuition rates. Both a huge benefit for SHSD residents.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Jan 11, 14 6:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Chief, if you ever bothered to actually read an article you would realize that the exact opposite is true - Tuckahoe residents are being asked to foot the bill for a merger that will benefit Southampton. Instead, you use every opportunity to make childish political statements. Pathetic
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Jan 10, 14 8:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
c1:

"What me worry !"
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 10, 14 8:17 PM
So what your saying is taxes won't go up in the village? Maybe you need to do a little research. Pathetic
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 11, 14 9:46 AM
I think everybody is missing the point here . There is a huge savings to consolidate. If the districts can make it work where Southampton tax payers don't have to pay more for the merger then lets do it. Leaving the Tuckahoe school district as is is not sustainable . If someone has a better solution I would like to hear it. We need one.
By Tuckahoe Ted (53), southampton on Jan 11, 14 5:47 PM
What was the agreement made with the union regarding the teachers at Tuckahoe school?
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jan 11, 14 7:25 PM
There are no obvious solutions but a there is a lot of finger pointing. Unfortunately trying to improve our kids education is on the bottom of everyone's todo list. Maybe its time to rethink the whole system we pay for education. As far as the teachers union is concerned it needs to be renegotiated. The governors 2 percent tax cap changes the conditions that the contracts were drawn under. That means we go back and create an aggreement under the new conditions. But we need a voice for the kids and ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Jan 11, 14 9:43 PM
Ah finally someone chimed in one the three pillars of Tuckahoe's abominable education quality - teacher's union's lack of accountability, results, and incessant demand for ever higher compensation, benefits, and pensions, at the same time oblivious or not caring that so many community residents were losing theirs, the sources of all the largesse.

One only needs to look at the budgets the last 12 years to see that the one singular largest source of the ever increasing school taxes were ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jan 11, 14 11:45 PM
2 members liked this comment
Reference to Becket interesting. But no we are waiting for leadership and someone to start rebuilding trust not the pursuit of power.
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Jan 12, 14 7:12 PM
That is why I asked?
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Jan 12, 14 8:03 PM
Above everything else, there is no greater type of leadership required today for Tuckahoe than financial leadership because the most pressing existential problem today is insolvency and bankruptcy.

If one can no longer pay the massive bills coming due, everything else is moot and academic, no pun intended! How can anyone have any trust in the leadership of the school district when the Board driving the Tuckahoe school bus containing our children is driving it off the financial cliff?

Through ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jan 12, 14 9:37 PM
Obbservant, please try to separate these three issues: the Union, the Board and the Educators at Tuckahoe. They each are inter-related, but unfortunately, cannot be clumped together. As parents of students at Tuckahoe, we have witnessed some great and some poor teachers of our kids. For the majority, it has been a great experience with outstanding teachers and a great administration. Yes, over the last few years there have been changes in the administration, but each has tried to better the experience ...more
By Infoseeker (280), Hampton Bays on Jan 14, 14 9:21 AM
There has to be drastic measures taken in the education depts in every state. We are paying 40k a student in Southampton with zero results. We have teachers telling our students they are
too dumb for core testing. Its not the kids it is a
combo of parents and teachers failing children.
Southampton wants Tuckahoe so they can use it as a way to disguise spending money. Show me one way it will better education and I will vote yes, but it can't.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 12, 14 9:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
Obbservant, you have some good observations but no solutions. Teacher salaries and benefits have increased dramatically, with Tuckahoe in line with others. You can't go backwards as far as salaries go. If we refused to raise salaries, binding arbitration would have done it for us. We don't have a slew of programs from which to cut. Governor Cuomo had a great idea, let's put the tax cap in place and reign in spending. That's an idea whose time has come, but he was well aware that expensive, ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Jan 12, 14 11:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Teacher salaries and benefits have increased dramatically, with Tuckahoe in line with others. You can't go backwards as far as salaries go. If we refused to raise salaries, binding arbitration would have done it for us. We don't have a slew of programs from which to cut."

At least we agree that teachers' union compensation has gone up dramatically and that drastic measures are called for; and clearly this has been at the expense of our children's education. The community is no longer willing ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jan 13, 14 8:15 PM
"Teacher salaries and benefits have increased dramatically, with Tuckahoe in line with others. You can't go backwards as far as salaries go. If we refused to raise salaries, binding arbitration would have done it for us. We don't have a slew of programs from which to cut."

At least we agree that teachers' union compensation has gone up dramatically and that drastic measures are called for; and clearly this has been at the expense of our children's education. The community is no longer willing ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jan 13, 14 8:15 PM
C'mon Obbservant, those are not realistic solutions. Just like mine, they will never happen, to no fault of Tuckahoe.
1) So let's take Quogue, quadruple their enrollment and diversify its 90+% white student population so it's under 50% and see if they look as good on paper as they do now. Do they still not even bus their kids? Add transportation costs into the mix because many of our students couldn't show up at school without a bus. I agree with you on runaway union costs, but they can ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Jan 13, 14 10:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lamm, thanks for your comments, but from your apparent background in the state educational field, your views are limited to state law. The Bankruptcy code is a Federal law which trumps state law, and one would have to file the petition in a Federal, not state Court. There have been ample national precedents of school districts filing for bankruptcy reorganization. It's a constitutional right, when a taxing organization is at the end of its rope in a desperate situation.

Two examples of ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jan 14, 14 12:33 AM
That's a wonderful little lesson in federal bankruptcy, but you well know that it's not going to go down like that. Tuckahoe isn't going to be the school to break the mold with overly drastic measures nor are we taking on the UFT. The state will step in and help if need be, but we're not even close to that yet. Other measures need to be exhausted before that can happen and we are still years away. We could get rid of pre-k, we could send the kids to Hampton Bays for high school (the tuition ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Jan 14, 14 8:50 PM
Lamm, you asked me for solution(s), I gave you rational solutions which can work, have worked in the past for other school districts in financial and academic crises, and will work if we try it if only we have a Board with courage to do the right thing(s). And that the fly in the ointment - we have a local yokel Board whose aspirational cry is "Southampton or bust!"

In the Copper river School District Bankruptcy Reorganization in the late 80s in Alaska which was ruled by the court against ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jan 15, 14 7:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well said, especially about bankruptcy often being the only effective wake-up call for both labor and management. At least one local air traffic controller learned the hard way from President Regan's actions.

What a tangled web we weave . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 15, 14 8:26 AM
To the Editor: Just curious. As one of the most commented articles in this issue, it has many more comments than 4 of the articles in your "Most Commented" Section, yet it is nowhere.

This is another terrific article by Erin McKinley - clear as a whistle on the complex issues. Kudos.
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jan 15, 14 10:45 PM
A bankruptcy filing would not be approved on the federal level any time soon, as we are not insolvent. You also don't make note of the fact that Tuckahoe teachers' salaries are not nearly the highest in the state (as was the case with Copper River) and are in line with all others in the general area (and schools in the Copper River SD are not funded with property taxes). What is unusual about Tuckahoe and only a handful of other schools on long island is that we pay too high a price for high school ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Jan 16, 14 2:22 AM
The education continues. To file for pre-packaged bankruptcy or worse, a municipality or corporation does not have to be literally insolvent today such as not being able to make payroll or pay normal suppliers. The judge would merely have to be convinced that reasonable, judicious cash projections show that an insolvency is an imminent probability if costs continue to escalate at its current rate.

Treasurers cannot wait until the organization is dead on the water before making a move to ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Jan 16, 14 10:06 AM
1 member liked this comment