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Aug 5, 2014 1:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Governor Signs New Bill To Facilitate Merger Of Southampton And Tuckahoe School Districts

Aug 6, 2014 11:08 AM

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday morning signed recently approved state legislation that will allow the Southampton School District to use $9 million to offset tax increases if a merger with the Tuckahoe School District is approved.

The bill is specific to the two East End school districts. It gives Southampton the option to use money from its capital reserve fund, which had been earmarked to build new office space, to offset tax increases related to a merger. Instead, Southampton could use office space that is available in the Tuckahoe School District’s Magee Street building via the merger.

The legislation would greatly reduce, and possibly eliminate, any immediate increases to Southampton residents’ taxes due to a merger, once it is coupled with a similar measure, approved in March, that would allow two separate tax districts within one school district, as well as a 10-year period to phase in new tax rates for a merged district.

“This smart legislation protects property taxpayers as they consider this merger and is a testament to the communities that are working together to cut costs for their residents,” the governor said in a statement.

“We are investigating, and have been investigating, whether or not we will need a new district office should we merge,” Southampton Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina said on Tuesday. “It does not obligate the school district in any way to make use of the legislation, and I think that the more options the school district has through legislation to support a merger is certainly a good thing.”

The Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts have been discussing a merger to alleviate a bleak financial future for Tuckahoe for several years, but no action was taken until October 2012, when the two districts commissioned a merger study. A plan that outlined details for the Southampton School District to annex Tuckahoe was approved by New York State Education Commissioner John B. King’s office in August 2013. Voters in the two districts were able to cast the first of several votes on the proposal—and in the first round, the plan was overwhelmingly approved by Tuckahoe voters but rejected by voters in the Southampton School District.

The study estimated that Southampton taxpayers could expect to see an increase of roughly 21 cents to their annual property tax rate, which would be about 8.7 percent, or $105 more a year on a house assessed at $500,000. Meanwhile, Tuckahoe’s property tax rate would be slashed by $4.82—nearly two-thirds of the current rate—saving the owner of a house assessed at $500,000 more than $2,400 in annual property taxes.

Although Tuckahoe residents approved the merger, 565-35, Southampton residents rejected the proposal, 1,075-693, temporarily shelving the idea while officials from both districts and state legislators went back to the drawing board to try to equalize the tax rates.

“It is up to the people in the community,” Senator Kenneth P. LaValle said on Tuesday. “I feel it is my job as a legislator to try and shape the best possible deal and then let the people decide.”

The Southampton district has been considering constructing a new office building for several years. Currently, administrators occupy a modular building nestled between the high school and intermediate school. In the merger feasibility study commissioned by both districts, it was suggested that if a merger is approved, a new building may not be necessary.

This week, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. noted that several measures were now in place to help the Southampton residents if they approve a merger. “The nice thing about the legislation is that it is home rule, so they can decide if they still need to use the money for capital projects, or if they only want to use part of it for tax stabilization,” he said. “It gives them the decision-making authority instead of just a capital reserve fund.”

All of the measures to help facilitate the merger—including a tax increase freeze, where the state would pay any tax increases for the first year and phase in additional charges over a decade—are contingent upon voter approval of the annexation. A new referendum date has not been set, but it would have to be held within the next year, or a new merger study would have to be completed first.

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THANK YOU to everyone who has worked from both districts to help this process along a positive path. Please be sure to openly and clearly communicate all details of planning to the communities way ahead of any voting. Effective communication has not been the strong suit of either of the districts- so please be cognizant of it. Effective listening has also not been the strong suit of many residents- so with that- residents: please be open minded and listen carefully.
Thank you.
By Shinnecock Hills family (59), Southampton on Aug 5, 14 3:26 PM
Thanks Fred Thiele for yet again going against voters. This is a lose lose for Southampton school district taxpayers. Dr Farina loves this idea so he can spend more money. He is even talking of building a new office building. How does this help education? It doesn't!!! This is a scam don't be fooled
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 5, 14 8:52 PM
2 members liked this comment
Nearly incoherent.......how is a bill that allows a $9 million reserve fund to be returned to the Southampton taxpayers if it is not needed for a new building a lose-lose. The merger decision is still a local home rule decision. The new state laws simply permit Southampton to also share in the benefits from the reduced expenditures that result from a merger......not just Tuckahoe. Shouldn't the state be passing laws that maximize the savings from a school consolidation, then leave the choice to ...more
By shadow captain (34), sag harbor on Aug 5, 14 9:32 PM
Thiele does little beyond issuing press releases about what laws he's introducing, laws which rarely ever make it out of committee. and ones which are certainly never passed!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 6, 14 2:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hmmm, 2:30 AM . . .

Mr. Wheeler, one would normally just ignore your typically broad-brush comment, which is wildly out of line IMO.

Perhaps your animus toward Mr. Thiele could be channeled into more productive channels?

Thank you.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 6, 14 6:22 AM
Interesting comment....considering the Governor signed the bill.........Trivia question......which Long Island State Assemblyman passed the most bills through the Assembly ans Senate this year??????
By shadow captain (34), sag harbor on Aug 6, 14 12:20 PM
What's your definition of a "productive channel"? Also, are "productive canals" OK? Your nannying is worse than any broad-brush comment
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 6, 14 12:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Stabilize the tax increase" ??!! With 9 million from the reserve fund!? That's a one shot deal and Southampton residents will be left holding the bag after those funds are used. Raw deal , except for those who CHOOSE to live in the Tuckahoe district.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Aug 6, 14 6:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
As if those looking for affordable housing options have choices on the East End? Seriously?
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Aug 7, 14 7:35 AM
The entire merger project is full of good news for Tuckahoe taxpayers and terrible news for Southampton taxpayers. Why should Southampton taxpayers pick up the huge bill for the Tuckahoe District that would add 35% more students to the merged district and provide less than 10% of the funds needed to run the schools? In addition, both districts are woefully poor in educating the students. Stop allowing the huge administration headed by Farina add enormous taxes from now until the end of time. ...more
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Aug 6, 14 7:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Unbelievable! Only now the Southampton press is going to cover this! Way to keep everyone in the loop. The press has never covered Senate Bill 7133 or the same as bill.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 6, 14 8:17 PM
Southampton school district has an outstanding debt of 48million according to the merger study. We should take on more debt?!
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 6, 14 8:41 PM
can we crack down on illegal housing? ie the overcrowded
By llimretaw (118), watermill on Aug 6, 14 9:24 PM
Wow. We've pretty much been driven tom the area by high housing costs and limited opportunities, but for a district that splurged how much on astro-turf and new athletic facilities to accommodate teams that (ahem) might try their hardest but certainly have not produced many NFL starters let alone college scholarships or even entertained any talent scounts...maybe looking after those who are as much a part of the community as any out here might be a better investment in the future.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Aug 7, 14 7:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
I just dont see how this will not increase my taxes, being in the Southampton school district, though I can see that Southampton could use more room for its students especially with the influx of children from som ethe over crowded houses. The real issue with Tuckahoe is the tax base. The Golf Courses do not pay their fair share and constantly challenge them. So on the backs of many the few entitled can play. I guess thats kinds of a never ending cpf tax. Your paying for the view.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Aug 8, 14 6:32 AM
You sound like one of the disciples of the Tuckahoe school board blaming a golf course for high taxes. The gold courses send zero kids to school and net positive for the district. Can you imagine how many more kids would be in the district if these courses were houses?
Why don't you complain about the illegal hotels with dozens of kids attending Tuckahoe. Or the reservation which pays no taxes.

You should use your brain when formulating an opinion instead of listening to the propaganda.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 8, 14 7:50 AM
So the tax won't go up the first year. But every year going forward the tax would increase! Folks are we this stupid?
By K2040 (8), Southampton on Aug 8, 14 9:21 AM
Will there be another vote on this debacle or will be railroaded with no input?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Aug 8, 14 5:05 PM
Looks like a lot of Southamptonites aren't happy about picking up their fare share.

You want "the help" to live somewhere else and make them to pay higher school taxes on their $400k house than you do on your $2mil house.
By MoronEliminator (215), Montauk on Aug 8, 14 5:07 PM
By MoronEliminator (215), Montauk on Aug 8, 14 5:08 PM
Really? Most of us in the Southampton SCHOOL DISTRICT ARE NOT LIVING IN $ 2 MILLION HOMES! One of the reasons I choose to live in North Sea (Southampton School District) is the low taxes, You choose to live in Tuckahoe, knowing full well that there are high taxes . Why should anyone subsidize your choice?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Aug 9, 14 6:24 AM
This is wealth redistribution at a local level. Tuckahoe has no real reason to convince the Southampton tax payer to go along with paying their bills. All they have is the emotional vote. The " we all one community" nonsense.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 9, 14 9:53 AM
Throw Dr Farina out he can't understand that he is goi g agai st the taxpayers wishes.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 12, 14 11:29 PM