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Dec 10, 2014 10:25 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe District Looking To Financial Future

Dec 10, 2014 10:25 AM

Now that a proposed merger with Southampton has failed a second time, Tuckahoe School officials say they can get through the 2015-16 school year—but there is a pressing need to find a way to keep the district financially solvent in the long term.

While district officials are looking at a variety of options, including agreements or mergers with larger nearby districts, there is another, more drastic option available. Although it is not being seriously considered at the moment, Tuckahoe officials have talked with the State Education Department about the option of dissolving the district, then paying tuition to send all of its students, from kindergarten through high school, to other districts.

Superintendent Chris Dyer said this week that the district is doing what it can to ensure that it does not become economically unsustainable, although rising pension, health insurance and benefit costs, coupled with salaries and tuition, will make it impossible to remain under a state-imposed cap on tax levy increases for much longer.

Mr. Dyer said district officials have been in talks with the State Education Department to review options, and that moving the district to “non-operating” status has been discussed, though he stressed that it is not currently on the table.

“We cannot survive fiscally in the long term,” Mr. Dyer said. “The issue now is how long do you want to operate with lacking quality programs if we cannot keep up with costs.”

According to Jeanne Beattie of the State Education Department, a school district cannot declare bankruptcy in New York—the state will step in before that happens. One option would be for the district to be converted into a non-operating school district, without any staff and with the school building closed. Tax money collected from residents would be used to pay tuition for all of the district’s students to attend school in neighboring districts.

Ms. Beattie emphasized that the state cannot force a district into such a status—a local referendum would be required to prove any such proposal.

Tuckahoe officials continue to hope that new state legislation will facilitate a merger with the Southampton School District in the future. Mr. Dyer noted that if the Tuckahoe and Southampton districts decide to consider a merger one more time, the districts would not need to fund a new merger study and start from scratch, but would have to simply update the current study with new financial information to keep it relevant.

The district is already working on a spending plan for the 2015-16 school year, and a draft was presented to the School Board late last month. However, even with savings in the past years from tuition exclusivity deals with the Southampton School District, tuition represents roughly 27 percent of the budget, totaling almost $3.5 million. Mr. Dyer said that percentage is not likely to change anytime soon.

“We are working on the budget, and we are looking to the 2015-16 school year to take our savings from the last two years and roll those forward,” Mr. Dyer said. “We are hoping to be able to look at our enrollment numbers and get firm projections for our future, and continue with current staffing and education programs we have had in the past.”

For the 2014-15 school year, Tuckahoe voters approved a $18,795,860 budget and a tax levy of $16,855,1182. The district estimated a tax rate of 7.4 percent per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning the owner of a house valued at $500,000 pays approximately $3,700 in school taxes this year.

When creating the budget for the current school year, board officials utilized $600,000 in reserve funds, and another $134,549 from the district’s unemployment reserve fund, to help offset costs for taxpayers.

“For the long term, we cannot afford for such a large portion of our budget to be paid to tuition when it is going up at a rate that exceeds our ability to gain revenues,” Mr. Dyer said. “If your expenses exceed your ability to raise revenues, then you have negative net cash flows. That is the situation we are in now, with tuition contributing largely to that, but it is not the only issue.”

Although tuition is not the only expenditure for the district—which must also field rising costs in health care, salaries and benefits—it is the only cost with some local control, Mr. Dyer said—even if it’s Southampton that exercises most of that control.

As of October, Tuckahoe officials said the district has $16 million in assets, including $3 million in reserves and $13 million in other assets. The district currently has $486,000 worth of debt.

Mr. Dyer predicts that the district will not have to pierce the tax levy cap for 2015-16. That will change, he estimates, by 2016-17.

“You can be educationally responsible but be a burden to the taxpayers, and we do not want to do that,” he said. “This is why we pushed the benefits of a merger.”

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So much misinformation from Tuckahoe and out right lies. First, you cannot just dissolve a district. You have to agreements in place with other districts regarding where your students will go. You cannot just close up shop and force surrounding districts, who in all likelihood do not have the infrastructure to accept your students.

Second tuition charged at Southampton is 21643 dollars per student. This amount is about 20000 dollars BELOW what Tuckahoe is spending to educate one of ...more
By Thetruthe (1), southampton on Dec 12, 14 12:03 PM
You don't dissolve the district. The district still exists, the students are just sent elsewhere. As far forcing our kids on other districts, the money is good and there would be competition for them. If you lose two students, you budget doesn't automatically go down by the cost per student, I'm not sure why you would even think that. If we lost 10 kids, we still haven't gotten rid of a single teacher, our heating bills don't go down, neither does our insurance, clerical, etc. This per student ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Dec 13, 14 12:13 AM
What are talking about? If they close the district the building is closed, and the teachers are gone. Then the district pays tuition to other districts to teach their students saving the Tuckahoe district millions. Where do you get your info from?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 13, 14 11:06 AM
No, what on earth are you talking about? There has never, in the history of NY State, ever been a school that was shuttered and taken over due to finances. There is no procedure for that and you have outdone yourself with this bit of misinformation. Where do YOU come up with this stuff? For a guy so concerned about his taxes going up, your vote guaranteed that they are. Had that merger vote passed, your taxes were headed downward for 3 years straight. That is a fact. SH was going to use money ...more
By Molly64 (15), Southampton on Dec 14, 14 7:33 AM
Do some homework chief before you speak. My response was to the first poster. To you... The district isn't dissolved. Some administration remains to handle the paperwork, and we (tuckahoe taxpayers) still own its assets. It is up to the Tuckahoe taxpayers to decide what we would do with the building. Where would Southampton put our students of they accepted them on tuition? You get the tuition, but you don't get the building. Maybe then your constant posts of SH creating infrastructure for ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Dec 13, 14 11:16 AM
Don't be mad at Southampton Lamm. Why don't you get mad at that 3 stooge school board that can't say no to a teacher's raise. Better yet where's your outrage of Dyer's 20 % raise right after he tells you he needs people to sacrifice? More examples of a one way self important administrators. Why do you even need a superintendent when the principal is more than capable of doing both jobs? Your one of the sheep of Tuckahoe.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 14, 14 1:28 AM
Mistaking "you're" for "your" - or vice versa - is a common writing error most people have made at least once. It is also a grammatical mistake that can be disproportionately irritating and confusing for the reader. Fortunately, once you know how to differentiate the two, you'll hardly ever mix them up ever again!

Understand the proper usage of the word you need. The best way to do that is to sound it out. There is a replacement test that will tell you for certain which word will fit. Read ...more
Dec 14, 14 7:26 AM appended by Molly64
By the way, if you could EVER find a quote where Mr. Dyer asked his teachers to sacrifice, please post it here. The raise is a pittance and it appears the guy works constantly.
By Molly64 (15), Southampton on Dec 14, 14 7:26 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bayview (160), Southampton on Dec 16, 14 12:03 PM
What do these comments about grammar have to do with the topic entitled "Tuckahoe District Looking to Financial Future"? To me this comment falls under the category of off-topic and/or inappropriate content. Stick to the discussion at hand.
By hamptonite (26), hamptons on Dec 18, 14 2:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 14, 14 9:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
I have never been a teacher but the value you place on an education is clearly on display in this post and the majority of your others. You're correct that I cannot make a fiscal argument for "Southampton paying her Tuckahoe taxes." Can you back that statement up with any cognizant explanation? I didn't think so - it's preposterously inaccurate. You dodge every opportunity to respond to my polite requests to simply back up your declarations. If asking you nicely to simply back up your statements ...more
By Molly64 (15), Southampton on Dec 15, 14 6:32 AM
Stop crying poverty when you gave your superintendent a $30,000 raise. For what? No wonder he decided to stay put. Poor decision making and ignorance on the part of the board.
By hamptonite (26), hamptons on Dec 16, 14 11:36 AM
If Tuckahoe School is so strapped for money, why don't they sell the property and the home they purchased in the district !! Pull in your belts. Stop you crying and blaming everyone you can think of, for the failure of the vote!! The BOE giving a $32,000 raise, shows me, they feel the school is in good shape. Get a younger , intune, board President, preferably, one not in the Superintendent's pocket!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Dec 16, 14 12:00 PM