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Should Tuckahoe and Southampton School Districts Be Merged?

In light of the Tuckahoe budget proposal being shot down at the polls, Patch wants to know: Are you in favor of making the two school districts one?

After Tuesday's budget vote, when Tuckahoe School District residents and estimated tax rate increase of 9.54 percent, School Board members and districts officials have been left to mull how to best slash the budget in a way more palatable to voters.

One idea to pursue to lower taxes for perpetuity is for the school district to give up its sovereignty and merge with the adjacent , which already serves most of 's high school-age students. The notion of a merger, which could result in significant tax savings for Tuckahoe residents, has been floated for years, but the districts have never taken the leap.

Under state law, before a merger can take place both school districts need to hold referendums and voters must sign off.

There are many considerations for homeowners and parents, such as retaining local control, individuality and autonomy. But if voters are primarily motivated by their taxes, then Tuckahoe voters would clearly favor a merger while Southampton voters would nix the plan.

Tuckahoe's current tax rate is $6.60 per $1,000 of assessed property value, compared to $2.29 in Southampton. That means for a home in Tuckahoe assessed at $500,000 in the 2011-12 school year, the annual tax bill came out to $3,300. But for a $500,000 home within Southampton School District, the bill is just $1,145.

Some rudimentary, non-exact calculations reveal that if the districts merged, and were yet to realize any cost savings from the move, Tuckahoe taxpayers would likely see their tax bills cut by more than half. Meanwhile, Southampton taxpayers could see their tax rate rise by close to 20 percent.

But the math and the reality isn't as simple as that. One factor making it difficult to make accurate tax estimates is that property assessments could swing wildly after a merger, since the quality of local schools is a consideration in home prices. And assessments are constantly in flux anyway.

Tax rate proposals are always iffy. In fact, Tuckahoe proposed a $6.80 rate for 2011-12 when voters . But after the tax rolls were finalized, the tax rate came in at $6.60.

The demographics of a new district could also impact state aid, which affects the size of the tax levy.

After reducing the budget size by eliminating redundant positions and programs, and making services such as transportation more efficient, Tuckahoe taxpayers would save even more — and the impact of a tax rate hike would be lessened on Southampton taxpayers.

But other expenses could be added to the budget for the sake of equity. For instance, offers a dual language program that Tuckahoe School does not. But under one combined district, parents might expect to get the same services at Tuckahoe School that are enjoyed at Southampton Elementary School, and vice versa.

Rather than seeking a merger, the Tuckahoe School Board could go in the complete opposite direction — saving money by cutting ties with Southampton in favor of school districts with high schools that charge less to accept out-of-district students.

Tuckahoe already allows parents the choice to send their ninth- through 12th-graders to either or , and Westhampton Beach is the cheaper option of the two. Hampton Bays High School, which is nearer to Tuckahoe than Westhampton Beach, is even cheaper.

And you for or against merging school districts? Why? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

Ralebird May 17, 2012 at 11:30 PM
It might be helpful for the editor to research the formula used to determine how much feeder districts are required to pay the receiving district for secondary students. I recall this was an issue a number of years ago for the districts feeding students to Westhampton Beach for high school and middle school. The state mandates certain payments, but is their calculation correct or should it be challenged? Another question for Tuckahoe is what is the cost of educating a few seventh and eighth graders with totally different curriculum and staffing requirements than the K-6 cohort as opposed to sending those students out of district also? It looks to me like East Quogue, which outsources its 7-12th grades ends up with a smaller overall budget than Tuckahoe while serving more students.
Hazel Wilkonson the First May 17, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Southampton voters are NOT going to approve a merger that raises their taxes by 20 %
Mom May 18, 2012 at 01:05 PM
What also may be helpful is if the editor published the correct information .... The voters did not vote down a 9.54% tax increase, they voted down a 1.9% school budget tax levy... It's because of these misrepresentation that we are where we are now. The parents in this school wont go down without a fight we love and support this wonderful school!
Sam Bucca May 18, 2012 at 01:21 PM
For many years the folks of Tuckahoe got just what they wanted, a small private school. Now due to an influx of spanish their having to pay the price of being a small public school. The people of Southampton have no interest in paying more taxes to reduce the tax burden of this district.
David D'Agostino May 18, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Firstly, Spanish people are from Spain. Secondly the "influx" of students has absolutely nothing to do with the school's financial troubles. It is due to a 2% tax cap (which was NOT pierced), a cut in State and Federal funding, outrageous busing fees, and a number of things which are not within the school's control such as decreased property assessments, fuel costs, etc. The changing demographics of our community are not a local phenomenon. As the Wall Street Journal reported just yesterday, "For the first time in U.S. history, whites of European ancestry account for less than half of newborn children, marking a demographic tipping point that is already changing the nation's politics, economy and workforce. Among the roughly four million children born in the U.S. between July 2010 and July 2011, 50.4% belonged to a racial or ethnic group that in previous generations would have classified them as minorities, up from 48.6% in the same period two years earlier, the Census Bureau said Thursday. That was the first 12-month stretch in which non-Hispanic white children accounted for less than half the country's births." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303879604577408363003351818.html The country is changing and some folks simply can't handle that. They want to scapegoat immigrants instead of facing real issues.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) May 18, 2012 at 02:31 PM
9.54 percent was, in fact, the projected tax rate increase put before the voters, as stated in the budget brochure. Yes, the tax levy increase being proposed was 1.99 percent, but the information I presented in regard to the estimated tax rate is also correct. I think I was being fair and accurate in saying that what voters objected to was the size of the tax rate increase, not the size of the tax levy increase. I understand that issue has been raised that some voters may have erroneously believed that the size of the budget was going up 9.54 percent. (The budget projection was actually only a 4.40 percent increase) And, as I stated in Patch's budget preview article, the reason why the tax rate was slated to go up by 9.54 percent is because the total assessed value of properties in the district fell by 4.91 percent, so people whose homes declined in assessed value would not be feeling the full brunt of of the 9.54 percent.
Kevin L. May 18, 2012 at 02:37 PM
In other words, it is Southampton Town who is responsible for the increased tax rate - NOT Tuckahoe School. This is because Southampton Town cannot make it on less and they are willing to let Tuckahoe School take it on the chin so they don't have to crimp - even though they end the year $500,000,000 in the red and not a clue where the cash went. THAT is the story...not that Tuckahoe cannot live on less.
John C May 18, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Merge the two districts and get it over with, the education in southampton is not any worse than tuckahoe so let the two merge and save some of the tax dollars for some residents. All the kids will be equal then .
Mom May 18, 2012 at 03:54 PM
If I'm not mistaken they are going to be doing a study to see if this is possible, and what the advantages and disadvantages will be. It's not as simple as just saying ok let's merge.
michael cuba May 19, 2012 at 03:23 AM
For what it's worth, Southampton asked Tuckahoe many, many times to consolidate and the answer was a resounding,"No!" from Tuckahoe. A philosophy of one district and having a preschool to grade 1/2 at Tuckahoe and SES grades 3-5 and 6-8 at SIS was discussed. Property in Tuckahoe was less expensive so the possibility of a new bus garage/depot was a possibility. It is possible that the taxes of Tuckahoe would have DECREASED and Southampton might have increased slightly initially The state said that BOTH districts would have to agree to a merger/consolidation but Tuckahoe would not agree..Soo... Southampton taxpayers passed a bond to spend millions to add on to the elementary school and renovate the other two schools. Why would taxpayers of Southampton now want to merge/consolidate with Tuckahoe?
John C May 19, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Kevin I guess your the one that is pssyfooting around face reality most of shinnecock hills want the merge I have being polling and going door to door
John C May 21, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Yes the tuckahoe board of Ed said no to the merge because they don't want certain people to lose that creampuff job of super for one small school he gets paid way too much.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) May 21, 2012 at 10:53 PM
LR, It is true that the tax rate would go up in Tuckahoe whether or not the budget passes or fails, because the total assessed value of properties in the district declined. But that 9.5 percent figure is not exclusively due to town assessments. Increasing the size of the tax levy also contributes to the tax rate increasing. The estimated tax rate increase would be less than 9.5 percent if the budget fails a second time and there is no tax levy increase. But, I'll note again, that the actual tax rate increase will not be known until assessments are finalized in the fall. If assessments fall further, the tax rate will be higher. If assessments go up, the tax rate will be below the current estimate.
LR May 22, 2012 at 01:29 AM
The fact remains that the tuckahoe school budget proposal came in well below our cap at 1.99% increase and was right in line with all of the other budgets which passed throughout LI. When residents go to vote THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE VOTING ON....a 1.99% tax levy increase. Voting on a school budget is NOT going to change assessments whether they are going up or down. Voting on a school budget is not going to change how the town manipulates tax rates to insure their revenues do not decrease. There is too much focus on assessments and TOWN tax rate increases and it is confusing voters. Tuckahoe voters need to go fight the town tax rate increase with the town! Voting on the school budget is making a decision as to the kind of education you want our future leaders to have, NOT on taking a stand against higher tax rates that the town wants to implement. WE are voting on 1.99% NOT 9.5%.
Larry June 06, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Merge the districts, you could send your kids to Harvard for what it costs to send a child to Tuckahoe

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