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Southampton-Tuckahoe School Merger Defeated

Voters in Tuckahoe were in favor of the merger, while Southampton voters were divided.

Linda Springer, the district clerk at Tuckahoe School, counts the absentee ballots. Credit: Taylor K. Vecsey
Linda Springer, the district clerk at Tuckahoe School, counts the absentee ballots. Credit: Taylor K. Vecsey
The proposal to merge the Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts failed to muster a majority in Southampton, therefore squashing the merger, at least for now.

Tuckahoe School District voters, who were looking at a sharp tax decrease if the merger passed, approved the annexation overwhelmingly with a vote of 565 to 35, according to school district clerk Linda Springer.

Meanwhile, Southampton voters were divided with 1,075 voting against the merger and 693 in favor, according to Amy Pierson, the district communications specialist. Southampton residents were looking at a tax increase of at least 8 percent.

Tuesday's vote was meant as an advisory vote. A straw vote, it is a non-binding vote mandated by State Education Law. If the majority of voters were in favor of it, only then would a statutory vote take place on Dec. 5.

Now, it's back to the drawing board, according to Christopher Dyer, the Tuckahoe School superintendent. "We will explore all the options," Dyer said after learning of Southampton's vote. Dyer said he and the board will look for ways to reduce tuition costs, find savings in the budget, and seek out state aid as part of the upcoming budget process. 

"We will continue to look for guidance from our board and our next meeting is Monday," he said. 

Dyer thanked the community, including a handful of parents who stuck around to hear the results on Tuesday evening. "They voted with their hearts for the kids," he said.

In Tuckahoe, there was a total of 600 voters — a large turnout for the district, which has about 1,800 registered voters. Twenty-seven of the votes cast were done by absentee ballot, Springer said. 

Sue Riccardi, who lives in the Tuckahoe School District and has a child in Southampton High School, said she wasn't surprised Tuckahoe voters came out in such force. "This is the way I knew it was going to go. It's what's best for the community. It's about what's right for the kids in the high school," she said.

She said high school students, from both districts, decorated signs encouraging people to vote. Standing in front of the Southampton Middle School, they held signs that said, "Vote Yes," and "11968 — We're all one community."

Of the machine ballots in Southampton School District, 653 were cast in favor of the merger versus 975 that were against. Pierson reported 36 absentee ballots approving the merger and 94 against, plus 4 affidavit votes in favor and 6 against, making for a total of 1,628 votes.

Superintendent Scott Farina was not immediately available for comment, as he went into executive session with the board after the vote.

"We have to continue on with our business and our business is education," Robert E. Grisnik, the chairman of the Tuckahoe School Board said.

Grisnik said he has met with Sen. Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., I-Sag Harbor, and they told him they are committed to seeing the merger take place. He said he would look to them for help in the coming months.

Another vote next year is always a possibility, he said.

Check back to Patch for more information as it becomes available.
Linda Goldsmith October 30, 2013 at 04:23 PM
My posts include my real name. I have nothing to hide and am a proud "true local!" I have the same zip code as all the other "idiots" and "maniacs" that voted yes or no. The schools should have merged long ago, but we can't dwell in the past, just move forward, however, what gets my maroon blood boiling is people who insist on "segregation" for lack of a better word. "Us" against "them" but it's about all of the kids-both schools-our future-at stake! Taxes go up no matter what you do! The State let everyone down by not timely providing the information necessary to make an actual intelligent vote.
Meadow Lane October 30, 2013 at 04:35 PM
The only time it becomes "us" or "them" is when someone says it. Let's all avoid those words and work this out TOGETHER. I can tell you you that I have never heard it said in SH nor do I feel it exists. I do believe that the board let us down. With every "new idea" it seems that there's a new disclosure that they hadn't done their homework adequately. But we'll work it out. I liked me Blaugh's blog and the helpful replies from our community. I hope he writes again.
Hazel Wilkonson the First October 30, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Ms Goldsmith, you just told someone who disagrees with you to "move to an island". Your hypocrisy is astounding.
Linda Goldsmith October 31, 2013 at 08:49 AM
HW: And you are quoted as saying "Southampton told Tuckahoe to go to _____?" There are other blogs about this merger. You should read some of those opinions. You called it "maniacal harangue" to those who disagree with you. Just sayin"!
Metz Lerner November 02, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Maybe staying to the subject at hand, an important one to all concerned, would be advisable.

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