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Aug 15, 2014 4:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton School District Presents New Projections For Tuckahoe Merger

Aug 20, 2014 11:54 AM

A revamped plan for the proposed annexation of the Tuckahoe School District by the Southampton School District drew mixed responses at a Southampton School Board meeting on Tuesday night.

Ultimately, the consensus was that more hard numbers and transparency were in order.

According to Southampton Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina, the district has spent the last several months going line by line through both the Southampton and Tuckahoe district budgets to come up with more concrete numbers than were available in a merger feasibility study released last year. While the district presented preliminary numbers on Tuesday night, many residents are requesting the full report and a breakdown as to how the district arrived at certain numbers.

In the line-by-line budget projection, the combined district is looking at $4 million in annual savings compared to what two individual districts would cost in one year, Dr. Farina said.

“We have learned some lessons from last year,” he said, referring to a failed attempt to convince Southampton voters to approve a merger. “One of the biggest problems we had was that we didn’t have firm financial predictions on what the district would look like should the two districts merge.”

The original merger study estimated that Southampton taxpayers could expect to see an increase of roughly 21 cents per $1,000 to their annual property tax rate, which would be about 8.7 percent, or $210 more per year, on a house assessed at $1 million.

But in the new study, the tax increase is projected at 33 cents spread out over a decade, greatly reducing the size of immediate increases. The increases would not go into effect until the 2018-19 school year. At the 10-year mark, the tax impact for a $1 million house would be $330 higher due to the merger.

Under the current proposal, the Southampton School District tax rate would increase from $2.44 to $2.77 per $1,000 of assessed valuation over the decade. Tuckahoe residents would see a decrease from $7.57 to the same $2.77 per $1,000 of assessed valuation over 10 years. These tax rate changes do not take into account changes in home assessment, or the regularly incurred annual increases to the tax rate and district budget.

During the meeting, one resident, Steve Abramson, expressed concern that the numbers are misleading, saying that they do not accurately reflect the total bill taxpayers will be footing, but merely the increase in the tax bill. If the merger were approved, and once the 10-year increase in the tax levy went into effect, the average tax increase would be $33 annually—but that number reflects only the increase, not the overall levy and the cumulative effect of the annual increases.

While some people spoke out against the merger at the meeting, others simply requested more information, saying the district would be doing a disservice to itself and the merger not to provide it.

“I think it is time we got some good, hard facts out to the people,” resident Judith Johnson said. “I personally think this merger should have happened years ago, but my concern as a retired educator is that we should be thinking about the children who are going to grow up and are going to be able to stay in the community and stay in the community.

“Sure, it comes down to the money,” she continued, “but you get what you pay for, and this board has to look people in the eye and not fudge a lot of stuff and get this out to the community, or this merger will be walloped again.”

Other community residents were not so positive.

Southampton resident Susan Stevenson said she does not see how the presented plan is financially viable for the Southampton community. Ms. Stevenson said that the loss of tuition money coming in to Southampton for Tuckahoe students, combined with an increase in the tax rate, means that Southampton taxpayers will be footing part of the bill for the annexation and for the future education of the Tuckahoe students. “We would be getting something like 25 percent more students, with only their minimal $10 million budget,” she said. “Where is the part where this is getting paid for?”

At the meeting, Dr. Farina said the district will have a public information meeting in a few weeks with more information about how the districts would merge and a more in-depth analysis of district finances.

Also in attendance at the meeting was Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer, and Tuckahoe Board of Education members Bob Grisnik and Harald Steudte, though none of them addressed the Southampton School Board. When the Tuckahoe administrators were asked a question by a Southampton resident, Dr. Farina responded that the Tuckahoe officials were there to observe and not take questions.

“We are very appreciative of the Southampton leadership pursuing educational opportunities of the merger to provide relief to all taxpayers,” Mr. Dyer said on Wednesday. “We think that the leadership is being very proactive with their budget, and we look forward to being able to share information with them and help the process.”

After a series of public hearings, the district intends to reschedule the straw vote for Southampton residents this fall, possibly in November. Tuckahoe residents will also have to redo the straw vote that approved the merger last fall. If both districts approve the annexation in the straw votes, the proposal would move to a second vote, possibly in January, that would make a final decision on the annexation.

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Hey Dr Farina we write your paycheck, and we have said no merger over and over. Drop the subject it is not going to help education nor lower expenses. We don't need higher taxes!
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Aug 15, 14 7:09 PM
The last big merger, Eastport South Manor, did nothing to lower taxes. Taxes went up faster and higher then the projections that were sold to the public. This merger will not save money only save Tuckahoe. The only way to save money and lower taxes is reduce staff, by a lot. Mergers will not accomplish this only the absorption and dissolving of schools will save money. For example, take a school like Bridgehampton; the students from BH go to either EH or SH and the BH school is dissolved, there ...more
By Qguy (27), quogue on Aug 16, 14 7:27 AM
The taxes in Eastport South Manor went up drastically because they built a new school. That would not have to be done here.
By interestedtaxpayer (21), southampton on Aug 16, 14 8:52 AM
How do you know that? Do you really believe they will not propose/demand new facilities because the existing infrastructure is inefficient & not capable of handling the combined student load?
By East End 2 (149), Southampton on Aug 16, 14 8:26 PM
The Tuckahoe School would be added to the Southampton School District so new space would not be necessary.
By interestedtaxpayer (21), southampton on Aug 17, 14 2:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
The ESm merger study had the taxes all wrong, even with construction, they went up beyond what was told to the tax payers. This merger will do the same. Mergers don't lower taxes, laying off a lot of staff does.
By Qguy (27), quogue on Aug 17, 14 6:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
How many times of voting "no" will it take for Southampton to drop the merger idea. The price of homes in Southampton school district is aleady extremly high do we really want to add high taxes to the expense of living here too? Vote no on the merger!
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 16, 14 8:58 AM
M2 Money Stock

11,434.2 Billions of Dollars ($11.434T)

Weekly, Ending Monday, Seasonally Adjusted, M2, Updated: 2014-08-14 3:47 PM CDT
By Mr. Z (11540), North Sea on Aug 16, 14 9:42 AM
Dr. Farina, we all know the position the Southampton Board took which was to acquire Tuck and all their notorious problems, in direct contradiction of the will of the overwhelming majority of your taxpayers. To support your Board's irrational conclusion, you attempted to manufacture an alternate universe by hiring an "independent" expert educational consulting firm to justify your ill conceived decision.

This consulting firm produced this "independent" fiscal conclusions that were summarily ...more
By Obbservant (443), southampton on Aug 16, 14 6:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
$100. $200. $300. A year. Now these districts have worked with Legislators so that any increases would be phased in over 10 years, and Tuckahoe would not get the tax decreases everyone griped about. They are working to save a community, and you selfish commenters I would bet are NOT the people who would be hurt by any of these small increases. I would pay it to help YOUR children in MY community. Yes, be fiscally smart. Don't be selfish though.

You know we were recently voted ...more
By Shinnecock Hills family (59), Southampton on Aug 16, 14 6:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
Since when are other people obligated to make life easier for Tuckahoe??? You chose to buy & live in the district. Others did not. Why in the world do they owe you anything?
By East End 2 (149), Southampton on Aug 16, 14 8:29 PM
East End, Tuckahoe taxpayers made life easier for Southampton taxpayers for years. While Tuckahoe griped about the crazy high tuition costs they were charged by Southampton, they were told to basically deal with it. So they did. Those days are coming to the end and within the next few years Tuckahoe will fold or send kids to the lowest bidder. That won't make life easier or better for either district, and high school programs rely heavily upon the Tuckahoe students attending.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Aug 16, 14 10:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
Selfish?! the only people who are being selfish are the tuckahoe residents that want Southampton's $ to bail them out. High school programs will not fold. Stop buying what the Southampton administration is selling you. Southampton High school has function very well with significantly less students and it can again. Southampton is $48 million in the hole and we should take on more debt, pay for more busses, standardized tests, free lunches. Not to mention throw away $9million tax dollars we ...more
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 17, 14 7:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Not to mention throw away $9 million tax dollars we have already paid to save Tuckahoe", Just curious, what's that about April? As far as I know, Tuckahoe pays Southampton a very high tuition to send their kids to SH High. I've never heard of Southampton paying Tuckahoe for anything, but I could be wrong.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Aug 18, 14 10:33 PM
Are we not ALL one community ! Should we not ALL be ONE Community! The last time I looked at my physical address in "Tuckahoe" it reads Southampton. I do beleive the majority of those attending Southampton High School have addresses that read Water Mill . Should we ostracize those families? Really people we all live hear we will all be paying into the same tax bracket here for our town our community our school our children. All these angry words and nasty words will do nothing to heal our town ...more
By mychildmatters (70), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 19, 14 10:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
I think it is obvious from reading the comments that Southampton does not want to take on the burden of Tuckahoe. When you buy property you learn your tax burden. Stepping in and changing the taxes dramatically is unfair to everyone. And, the merger will most likely end up saving not one dime. The people voted "no" already. I think it is a disservice to the community that we have to go through this referendum And, no matter how Southampton and Tuckahoe play the merger, it's a bad deal for ...more
By localcitizen (108), Southampton on Aug 19, 14 1:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lamm-9 million refers to taxes already pd to the district that they want to use to "equalize" the taxes between the two districts. A total waste. I get conflicting info regarding a very high tuition. Some people in tuckahoe say it's high, while other tuckahoe residents say the opposite. When the Southampton school board was asked directly how much $ Southampton is profiting off of tuckahoe they would not answer the question.
The reason the govt is getting involved is for their own selfish ...more
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 19, 14 4:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
The press never disappoints with spinning this in this in favor of the merger.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 20, 14 6:23 AM
Obviously you do not get what you pay for. The scores on standardized tests are dismal and fall way below most schools of comparable size in Long Island. There are no guarantees that the merger will save any money and now only $4million is projected to be saved on a budget of over $70 million. This as the say is "penny wise and pound foolish."
The Southampton District has admitted that the expensive study and plan of last year were incorrect. There is no way to determine if the current ...more
By localcitizen (108), Southampton on Aug 20, 14 7:49 AM
The state offered a grant for longer days and the southampton district declined because they were usi g their resources on this nonsense. There is no way anyone can project 10 years in a budget. It is impossible and it is time for Farina to go.
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Aug 20, 14 9:12 AM
No merger!
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Aug 20, 14 9:13 AM
Southampton school district has NOT declined the ELT grant. They are now looking into implementing it.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 20, 14 10:58 AM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you for mentioning it! I hate that this issue isn't getting the same amount of press!!
By Polandspring (96), Southampton on Aug 20, 14 5:39 PM
My kudos again to Erin Mckinley for accurately describing the general skepticism and dark mood expressed in the Southampton meeting about the prospects of the Tuckahoe takeover, including its embedded, notorious long running problems of very poor academic quality, runaway costs, neanderthal leadership, and test scores even worse than its own.

Turning a sow's ear well known to Southampton residents as a toxic school district into a silk purse that will improve and enhance the Southampton ...more
Aug 20, 14 11:19 AM appended by Obbservant
My kudos again to Erin Mckinley for accurately describing the general skepticism and dark mood expressed in the Southampton meeting about the prospects of the Tuckahoe takeover, including its embedded, notorious long running problems of very poor academic quality, runaway costs, neanderthal leadership, and test scores even worse than its own. Turning a sow's ear well known to Southampton residents as a toxic school district into a silk purse that will improve and enhance the Southampton school district amounts to an incredible leap of faith. And to back it up, they rub salt into the SHTN taxpayer's wounds by announcing that for their trouble, they get to pay a higher tax from $2.44 to $2.77 over 10 years (who makes accurate accurate projections over 10 years?) while Tuckahoe taxpayers get a spectacular tax cut bonanza from $7.57 to $2.77 after the acquisition. some deal for Southampton, eh? No wonder Tuckahoe voted for the takeover in an overwhelming lanslide. But all SHMTN taxpayers see is red - a deeply troubled school district striking gold overnight with the takeover with a boost to Tuckahoe's real estate values due to the huge tax cut, an academic nightmare, a powerful teachers' union used to getting whatever it wants, and a deeply suspect financial projection that reined in their own expert consultants own independent projections, because the independent figures were unacceptable to the taxpayers. Worse, Farina and the Board never even talked about how the merger would improve the academic quality of Southampton. The deal sounds like all downside for Southampton with no redeeming value, but huge tax cuts for Tuckahoe that will be felt almost immediately. Perhaps the Tuckahoe Board could laughably be the smarter Board between the two with the ability to snooker the Southampton Board into the one way deal.
By Obbservant (443), southampton on Aug 20, 14 11:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'm sure it is much easier to manage the schools being smaller entities. Funny how the board of Tuckahoe was at the meeting to help get their taxes cut.
Dr Farina is an alleged doctor of education, and can not tell us how education will be improved. The only thing that will be improved will be his paycheck, because he will ask for more money for more students under his supervision. Again Dr Farina not one single Southampton taxpayer has asked you to investigate a merger or to have a vote on ...more
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Aug 20, 14 5:01 PM
Tuckahoe should explore contracting with the Hampton Bays School District.
Hampton Bays is a poorer district than both Southampton, and Westhampton. A merger with HB would be very feasible, and most likely benefit both Districts.
The Tukahoe District borders Hampton Bays School District as well as Southampton. Academically, I believe Hampton Bays is equal, or may be better
than Southampton. Tuckahoe should do it's homework and explore Hampton Bays.
By Jimion (129), Hampton Bays on Aug 20, 14 2:45 PM
No hard numbers were presented at the meeting and the one set of numbers was
confusing if not misleading. A $4 million savings for a budget that will be over $70 million isn't enough of an incentive to merge. And it is truly unfair to ask the tax payers in Southampton to pick up the tab for Tuckahoe. This is not about being selfish, it's about the fact that when you purchase a property, you learn the taxes to be paid. Changing the game is not fair to anyone. I understand why Tuckahoe residents ...more
By localcitizen (108), Southampton on Aug 20, 14 4:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Hampton Bays!!!
By Infoseeker (279), Hampton Bays on Aug 20, 14 6:54 PM
When is the vote? Hopefully the next one will be the last, or is this like the school budget votes where a 'NO' means another vote.
By bigfresh (4534), north sea on Aug 21, 14 6:15 AM
I see that Southampton has a 9 million dollar reserve fund which I believe is over the legally allowed limit that it wants to use to build a new administrative building. I guess that's for the the children as they always say. Tuckahoe should merge with Hampton Bays then Southampton will lose those insanely high tuition dollars and then your taxes will really explode. With the same amount of students as HB why does it cost 20 million more to educate the students in SHSD. I use the word educate loosely ...more
By maxwell (169), speonk on Aug 21, 14 8:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
All the Southampton Residents stating Vote no make me SICK!!! "Tell them to try Hampton Bays" Why Don't YOU try Hampton Bays -WE LIVE IN SOUTHAMPTON Get over it we are NOT going anywhere we are staying right where we are! As I'm sure you want to stay where you are. So STOP telling us to GO some place else with our children. Our Children have always played on the same teams, since they were little WHY should our town not merge. Get over your issues times change, Taxes Change, BUT People who live ...more
By mychildmatters (70), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 21, 14 4:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'm so sick of hearing "we are one community" bullcrap. The nerve of these people griping because we don't want to pay their bills.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 21, 14 4:43 PM
Hey mychildmatters: You chose to live in Tuckahoe right? Knowing full well that taxes are high, you still moved there. Why is it the residents of the Southampton School District responsibility to pay your taxes? Personal responsibility people, personal responsibility!
By bigfresh (4534), north sea on Aug 22, 14 5:41 PM
No one asked you to pay my taxes ! I have paid my taxes for many years early if not always ontime. So don't worry about that. When its all said and done - We ALL will have the same tax rate what is your issue ! Get over your self -Times change
By mychildmatters (70), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 28, 14 11:19 AM
This is a perfect example of why the Hamptons was voted one of the most unfriendly towns in America. The message sent to Tuckahoe kids is "you aren't needed or wanted here unless you pay what we tell you", and the message sent to Southampton kids is "don't help your neighbors and friends because they chose to buy there, so screw them, they can go find help elsewhere". I I have to agree with what Westhampton had been saying for years, send your kids here, we want them, we will charge less and will ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Aug 23, 14 11:04 AM
2 members liked this comment
Lamm. You hit the nail on the head. Thank you.
By Infoseeker (279), Hampton Bays on Aug 24, 14 8:15 AM
1 member liked this comment
Since when is being good neighbor include paying your neighbors taxes, buying more busses to accommodate your neighbor, and maintaining your neighbors school building forever, not to mention the house across the street that no one ever mentions. Time to complain to Cuomo, the 2% tax cap is bringing this district down and don't think that wasn't intentional on his part.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Aug 24, 14 11:13 AM
You are right April, it is the tax cap that is bringing Tuckahoe down. Big Fresh, no, we didn't buy in this district with the knowledge that this would happen. Tuckahoe has been subsidizing Southampton SD residents for a very long time, to the tune of over $4 million per year, which averages $35,000+ per Tuckahoe student (not including transportation). Tuckahoe isn't looking for a handout, we will pay taxes to the Southampton district as well. You will not be maintaining OUR building, you will ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Aug 24, 14 11:58 AM
2 members liked this comment
And For ALL of the Precious Southampton Residents who think Their Southampton School Disctrict Alone is Prime WITHOUGHT TUCKAHOE STUDENTS well why don't you just look at the Top student this year who Graduated!!!!! Really All I have to Say is what an amazing group of Top 15
CONGRATUALTIONS TUCKAHOE STUDENTS JOB WELL DONE
I would take nothing away from all the other Graduates ever. My point here is STOP saying WE have nothing to offer, STOP saying are children have nothing going on, ...more
By mychildmatters (70), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 28, 14 11:39 AM
The problem is that Southampton School District taxpayers should not pay one cent more in taxes for this reason.ever, period.
By Hamptons Seashell (34), Southampton on Aug 30, 14 4:42 PM
maybe the tuckahoe students should go to HB and HB should use the tuckahoe school as a pre K or primary student school ferring up space for the tuckahoe students in HB. tuckahoe has plenty of space for a lower grade student pop to come in and the tax burden would come with pluses for HB since SO is so opposed and the grounds of tuckahoe can be utilized by HB somethihg SO never thiks about but the classrooms are there and HB could use them very well with short bussing for young students. the So ...more
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Aug 30, 14 7:44 PM
Future Stars, Fall programs, camps, kids,