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Feb 24, 2015 10:36 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe School District Agrees To One-Year Tuition Deal With Southampton

Feb 25, 2015 10:28 AM

The Tuckahoe Board of Education has agreed to a one-year tuition exclusivity deal with the Southampton School District to educate all of Tuckahoe’s 145 high school students for the 2015-16 school year.

After a community forum on Monday night, and a closed-door executive session, the Tuckahoe School Board voted, 2-1, to approve the deal, which will offer tuition rates of $23,009 for most students, and $66,632 for students requiring special education services. Board members Bob Grisnik and Dr. Daniel Crough voted in favor, while board member Harald Steudte was opposed.

The deal was originally proposed by Southampton as a five-year exclusivity deal, with increases determined by Southampton’s budget-to-budget changes, but that offer was declined by Tuckahoe officials, who labeled it as unfeasible and unpredictable. Instead, the rates for the first year were adopted for a one-year pact.

“I am very excited and pleased to hear that they are accepting our tuition proposal,” Southampton Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina said. “It allows us to plan our master schedule, build our budget and move forward to next year.”

On Monday night, Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer floated preliminary budget figures for the 2015-16 school year. If nothing changes, the budget would allow the district to stay within a state cap on tax levy increases. The $19 million spending plan, which represents a 1.6-percent increase in spending over the current year’s $18.8 million, maintains all programs and current staff members, tapping fund balances to keep taxes in check.

Mr. Dyer also pitched a $17.5 million tax levy, a 3.7-percent increase over the current year’s $16.8 million levy, which would still be within the limits of a state cap with allowed exemptions.

The tuition rate offered by Southampton is 15 percent below the maximum non-resident tuition rate determined by the state, and 25 percent below the maximum for special education students. The deal is projected to save Tuckahoe $914,959 from what it would have paid if students had been allowed to choose between Southampton and Westhampton Beach high schools. Giving them that option would have nullified an existing exclusivity deal with Southampton, and Southampton would have charged Tuckahoe the maximum tuition rates set by the state—$27,069, and $88,842 for children requiring special education services.

Next year, Tuckahoe will send 122 students plus 23 special education students to Southampton High School. Eleven seniors who started at Westhampton Beach before exclusivity deals were in place will be allowed to remain in that school district next year.

“The Tuckahoe Common School District and other sending districts are on a slippery slope to financial disarray when tuition expenses allowed as maximums under Seneca Falls exceed revenues,” Mr. Dyer said in a statement Tuesday morning, referring to the state formula for setting tuition caps. “[Tuckahoe] has been proactive, been seeking a community solution via merger and exclusive tuition rates, and has been hopeful that all students and families in our community would benefit.”

This week, Mr. Dyer admitted that Southampton is not the least expensive tuition option for next year—Westhampton Beach actually came in lower, though the exact tuition rate was not disclosed. However, he said the district has made a commitment that if a student starts at one high school, he or she will be allowed to graduate from that school. If Tuckahoe had accepted a tuition deal with Westhampton Beach exclusively, all Tuckahoe students attending Southampton High School next semester would have to be transferred, which Tuckahoe officials say is not a viable option.

“The decision to send all our students to Westhampton Beach would have meant that 96 Southampton students would have to disrupt their education programs,” Mr. Dyer said. “This is not in the best interest of children and their families.”

While Tuckahoe parents now know where students will be attending high school come September, there are still a lot of unanswered questions for the school district—mainly, what will happen in two years when the district is out of money. According to Mr. Grisnik, the district still does not have a solid long-term plan, and he still hopes to see a merger with Southampton, an option that has been rejected twice by Southampton School District voters in referendums. He acknowledged that there will be difficult times ahead if a solution cannot be found, saying that at the moment Southampton School District officials are not even considering bringing a merger vote to taxpayers for a third time unless some serious changes are made to the proposal.

“The state will not let school districts go bankrupt, but how do you pay your bills if you don’t have the money?” Mr. Grisnik asked. “We as a board have decided that we have made all of the cuts that we want to make—we are drawing a line in the sand right now, and this is as far as we are willing to cut.”

Mr. Dyer said he also is concerned about the future of the district, adding that, without legislative help, the district will have a negative fund balance come 2017-18. Mr. Dyer is a proponent of creating a regional high school for the entire East End to minimize costs for all sending school districts.

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This in addition to paying the high school taxes already in place?
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Feb 24, 15 11:54 AM
Notice Chris Dyer is setting the stage for the big push for a regional high school.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Feb 24, 15 12:18 PM
Chris Dyer is always looking out for himself. He said he was leaving but when the pay at his new position wasn't as enormous as what he was getting in Tuckahoe, he decided to stay put. He has shown no leadership is cutting costs and has no vision other than to keep spending on himself and other bloated aspects of the huge budget in the district. Why would anyone lister to what he has to say?
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Feb 24, 15 7:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Local, if Chris Dyer was looking out for himself, he wouldn't be pushing a merger. If a merger were approved, he would be out of his job as one of the lowest paying superintendents on Long Island. None of what you said has any relevance to reality.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Feb 24, 15 9:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
A regional high school is something worth looking into. It would definitively outline the future of both districts (Southampton and Tuckahoe), instead of all this year to year, up in the air, contract negotiation bs that both districts deal with every year. We would all know what our tax bills were and how they may grow in the future, and solidify the value of our homes for years to come. I would prefer a merger, but second to that, I would love to see stability both Tuckahoe and Southampton, ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Feb 24, 15 9:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
He isn't pushing a merger as much as pushing to get rid of the two percent tax cap. Spending, more spending and more spending is what he's talking about.
That's what he knows how to do so well.
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Feb 25, 15 6:45 AM
There's been a zero increase in departmental budgets. Still no relevance to reality. Whatever you feel about him are your feelings, but the reasons you post here are not valid. He's been the strongest proponent for a merger.
By lamm (304), Southampton on Feb 25, 15 1:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
Chris Dyer is in his final three years, and as usual he got the board to bump his salary by 30k this year. This will raise his final retirement package that the deficient NY state pension plan can pay him for decades. Not to mention the bankrupt, defunct Tuckahoe can lay out another 30 k they don't have. This is another case of a fleecing of a school district. The people on school boards have no idea what a budget is.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Feb 25, 15 11:54 PM
It's astounding that Chris Dyer is set to accept an increase in pay but at the same time ask his teachers to pitch in on their salaries. Shouldn't he do the same? Typical, it's good for thee but not for me mentality.
By April1 (156), Southampton on Feb 26, 15 7:40 AM
If you notice the discussions of the Tuckahoe board is never how any decision will increase student performance. The talks are cutting services, and raising salaries. How did Chris Dyers 30k raise help the district? You don't give raises to defunct institutions
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Feb 26, 15 8:02 AM
The people of Tuckahoe have to vote NO to ALL increases in the budget! Enough already!
By Linda Goldsmith (8), Hampton Bays on Feb 26, 15 1:21 PM
Give Dyer a raise, force the kids into a substandard high school at crazy rates and then ask teachers to take a cut. And they want to pretend this is about education?
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Mar 5, 15 7:29 AM