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Tuckahoe Board Will Put Forth Revised Budget June 19

Additionally, a voting machine malfunction will lead to a re-vote on a proposition to expend capital funds on replacing heating pipes.

The Board will move forward with putting a revised budget before voters on June 19, taking a second shot at getting a tax levy increase passed.

The budget that , with only 45.3 percent of voters in support, included a 1.99 percent increase in the tax levy, amounting to $314,485. The School Board now has the delicate task of finding a levy increase that will preserve as many services and programs as possible, and still be acceptable to taxpayers. If voters reject the revised budget, the district will be forced to keep the tax levy flat, and cut the entire $314,485 from the original $17.8 million spending plan.

At a School Board work session Tuesday, with more than 80 community members in the audience, School Business Official Keri Loughlin said the 1.99 tax levy increase that had been proposed was the lowest Tuckahoe has had in at least a decade, and on average the increase has been 7.65 percent.

The levy increase could have been as high at 2.7 percent while still adhering to New York State's new tax cap law, according to school officials.

But the estimated tax rate increase under the failed budget was 9.54 percent. Approximately, the first 7.41 percent of the estimated tax rate increase is a result of tax assessments in the school district declining, while the remainder was due to the increase in the tax levy. So even if the budget fails a second time and the district is forced onto a contingency budget, the tax rate will still rise about 7.41 percent, under current projections.

But the assessments and tax rate will not be finalized until the fall.

“The tax rate isn’t set until October when they close the rolls, so a lot can change before then,” School Board Chairman Robert Grisnik said.

  • RELATED:

There were a number of reasons the total assessed value of properties in the district slid, according to Grisnik. For one, he said, 's assessed value dropped significantly, which was a big hit. Another factor is new rules on how condominiums are assessed, he said.

Rather than assessing the value of condos based on sale value, tax assessors must consider rental rates instead. So condo owners can now pay far less in taxes, and house and business owners are making up the difference.

Grisnik noted that the school district is not involved in assessing homes — that is the job of the Southampton Town tax assessor.

Douglas Unger, a district voter critical of the school budget, steered the meeting Tuesday toward discussing the actual impact the tax rate increase would have on individual taxpayers. District officials had pointed out that homeowners whose assessments dropped would not actually see their tax bills go up 9.54 percent, but by less than that.

Unger, and some other attendees Tuesday, took issue.

“It is true, some assessments went down, but other people are paying for it, and their taxes are going up,” Tuckahoe resident Marilyn Fitzgerald said.

Unger prepared a chart based on the tax assessments rolls for Tuckahoe School District, and distributed copies at Tuesday’s meeting. In his research, he found that 48 percent of properties had no change in their assessments — those owners will feel the full brunt of the 9.54 tax rate increase. Meanwhile, 47 percent of properties went down in value, and those property owners will see their tax bills go up by less than 9.54 percent. And the remaining 5 percent of assessments increased, meaning those property owners will have their individual tax bills increase by more than 9.54 percent.

After the meeting, Loughlin said that the town assessor's office is reluctant to give preliminary assessment numbers to the school district, since they are not finalized until October. She said school districts are not legally required to publish their projected tax rates and distribute a budget brochure before school budgets are put to a vote, but Tuckahoe customarily does so.

The public discussion Tuesday also swung to what cuts may be made, such as to prekindergarten, and other money-saving measures the district could take.

District resident Bill Dasimer suggested the School Board stop tuitioning ninth- through 12th-grade students to , and instead send them to Hampton Bays or Westhampton Beach high schools, where out-of-district tuition is cheaper. That way, more Tuckahoe tax dollars will stay in the Tuckahoe School District, he said.

Grisnik said that the Tuckahoe School Board has a meeting planned with the Southampton School Board on June 6 to discuss the future relationship between the districts, but, he added, the meeting will not be open to the public.

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And Tuckahoe officials will also be working in the coming weeks on the proposal that will go before voters June 19.

According to Grisnik, legal notices will be published May 31 and June 14, a new budget brochure will be mailed out to district voters on June 4, with details of the amended budget, and on June 5 the budget will be available on the district website and in the district office. A public hearing will take place June 12 and the vote will be June 19.

Funding for New Pipes Will Be on Ballot Again

A second ballot proposition that failed will also get another chance June 19.

Grisnik announced at Tuesday's meeting that a voting machine malfunction was discovered that may have affected the outcome of Proposition No. 2 on May 15. He said that one of the machines did not register any "Yes" votes for the proposition, which was for permission to expend $465,000 from the capital reserve fund for new heating pipes. The measure does not affect the tax rate.

There were 222 "No" votes recorded and 120 "Yes" votes. There was also an inordinate number of abstentions reported, 161, but now it appears that most, if not all, of the abstentions were really "Yes" votes that went unrecorded.

Grisnik explained that, because there was an error, the district can, and will, put the proposition up for a second vote. He said that the manufacturer of the voting machine — which was used by voters with last names that start with "A" through "L" — confirmed the malfunction.

Douglas Unger May 24, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Ok LR let’s give this a try. If your house is assessed at $850,000 and that assessment hasn’t changed for the 2012-2013 tax year, your 2011-2012 Tuckahoe School District tax bill would be ($850,000 / $1000) * $6.60 (2011-2012 tax rate per $1000) or $5610. This is only for the school portion of your total tax bill. It doesn’t include county, town, police, 911, fire, etc. taxes. Now using the 1.99% tax levy of the budget that was just voted down (because we don’t yet know what the amended budget will be.) and the latest assessment figures from the town (4/26/12), the 2012-2013 Tuckahoe School Tax Rate will be $7.297 per $1000. This will raise your 2012-2013 Tuckahoe School District tax bill to ($850,000 / $1000) * $7.297 = $6202.45 or a difference of $592.45. If the school didn’t increase the tax levy from 2011-2012, the Tuckahoe School Tax Rate would be $7.155 per $1000 (($15,815,008/$2,210,368,377)*1000) = $7.155) yielding a 2012-2013 Tuckahoe School District tax bill of $6081.75. (Continued...)
Douglas Unger May 24, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I don’t disagree that the majority of the tax rate increase is caused by the reduced assessments, but IMO the board should take this fact into account when crafting a budget. The school budget actually increased 4.4%. The tax levy was kept down to 1.99% only because the school used $700,000 from their reserves. The school can not sustain this “burn rate”. When the reserves run out, you better WATCH OUT. In these challenging times and knowing that the district assessment is going down, I would not add expensive new programs like full day PK with busing, year round remediation and enrichment services, etc., but that is just 1 person’s opinion. I agree that so far the posts have been civil and I'm glad to see that.
David D'Agostino May 24, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Can someone from the Tuckahoe School Board please speak with the finance person at the school and carefully review Mr. Unger's statements and respond with a clear answer as to whether or not what he is saying is correct, incorrect, close, etc.
Douglas Unger May 24, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I said the TAX RATE will go up 9.5%. All my signs specifically stated the “TAX RATE is going up 9.5%” This is 100% factually accurate and is even stated in Tuckahoe’s own Budget Brochure. I would argue that Tuckahoe School is no longer a positive asset in determining the actual selling price of your property. At this point because of the constant tax rate increases (5.5% this year, 8.5%-10.5% next year, and no magic bullet in the foreseeable future) I would consider it a liability. Southampton has a large seasonal population; don’t think that people interested in purchasing a home here don’t look at taxes before they buy. When you can buy 1/2 a mile away and the school taxes are a 1/2 to a 1/3 of what they are in Tuckahoe, what do you think they are going to do?
LR May 24, 2012 at 03:30 PM
To David ....I'm already on it. To Mr. Unger, Thank you for response. So bottom line is on 850,000 house a vote no means increase of $408 and a vote yes means an additional $184 or $592 total. On a 400,000 home the increased tax levy would probably add about $90 to your tax bill. It's hard for me to believe that a $90 investment in our school, community, future and property values is not worth it. I hope that enough voters will realize that. Next question mr. Unger, on another note, have you ever walked through our school when it's in session? You should see the children that go there and how they conduct themselves. You should see the atmosphere. I think IMO you would impressed. Just a thought in hopes that you could keep an open mind. Yes I do agree that we have our work cut out for us in the future. I think that is clear to all of us but currently we need to get through this dilemma. I just wish we find a common ground and move forward. It is sad to see the community so divided.
Douglas Unger May 24, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Ms. LR We don’t yet know what the amended budget will be, so I am using the 1.99% tax levy increase budget that was voted down. 2012-2013 Tuckahoe School District tax $6081.75 (NO vote – using 1.99% tax levy increase budget) 2011-2012 Tuckahoe School District tax $5610.00 Difference +$471.75 2012-2013 Tuckahoe School District tax $6202.45 (YES vote – using 1.99% tax levy increase budget) 2011-2012 Tuckahoe School District tax $5610.00 Difference +$592.45 NO vote – YES vote Difference $120.70
Mom May 24, 2012 at 04:14 PM
So you're voting down the school budget to save yourself $120.70.... Wow
Douglas Unger May 24, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Yes Ms. LR I have been in the school and it is lovely, the kids are very cute, it’s great to see all the projects lining the walls, and I know the teachers are hard working and very dedicated. I don’t dispute that. Unfortunately there is this other factor out there called the tax rate. It has been going up every year since I built my house in 1987. Does it go up equal to the inflation rate? No, it doesn’t. It goes up in multiples of the inflation rate, culminating with a 5.5% tax rate this year, a minimum of 8.5% tax rate increase next year, and no reason to expect anything in the near future. This is NOT SUSTAINABLE! As Joe Citizen, I ONLY have TWO choices. I can vote YES or NO on the budget. Will I save that much money next year by voting no? No, I agree I won’t. But this point, I would be voting no to try to send a message to the school board that I don’t agree with their decisions. IMO, after this first budget was voted down the board should pull the full day PK, new summer programs, etc. and deliver a tax levy that is actually less then last year’s. We’ll see what the board proposes in the modified budget.
Mom May 24, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Mr Unger , what you're forgetting is that the board did actually cut to get to the proposed budget. If you propose they cut full day pre k, summer programs etc, then what do you suppose they should cut next year to help with the normal rising costs of operation and salaries? Full day kindergarten, full day first grade, busing? You're being unreasonable to believe that costs will go down to the level you would like, which I honestly don't think you will ever be happy with. No one in the school district is happy with rising tax rates, it's a fact of life.... Every year expenses increase. It's time to stop being unreasonable.
Amy A May 25, 2012 at 03:44 AM
Mr. Unger, IMO, lack of community support does much more harm to our property values than a small school budget increase. We need to support our schools as they are the future of our community. You can fight the golf courses or high tuition rates, but instead you choose the easy fight, the children. Go picket outside the golf courses instead of the schools, if you really have the courage.
Douglas Unger May 25, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Well for starters, how about all new high school students going to Hampton Bays or Westhampton? Sorry for the short post, but the outside world beckons. I will try to expound more a little later.
LR May 25, 2012 at 08:01 PM
one of two parts: Mr Unger, First of all, thank you for running those numbers! No one else has supplied us with that info! I am also glad to hear that you can appreciate our school. Now I think you need to understand that YOU HAVE OUR ATTENTION AND WE HEAR YOUR MESSAGE and you make some extremely valid points. (yes I'm shouting). Of course that is IMO. Also I agree that the the increases in the past have been exorbitant at times. Also I agree that these increases are not sustainable. I think that we can agree on more things than you think. Very few people can afford constant tax increases. For me personally, as I said I am a single working mother. I cut my own lawn, clean my own house and very rarely eat out. When costs increase for me I'm using more coupons and shopping for sales. I'm not cutting back on the landscaper or pool guy. So I get it. Your message has been heard loud and clear. You have won your battle! The budget was voted down and a revised one is going to proposed.
LR May 25, 2012 at 08:09 PM
part 2: At this time I ask that you reconsider your stand. I say that only as it applies to THIS revised budget. ( next year could be a whole other story). You seem to be logical in your thinking so I ask that you hear me out. This budget is not unreasonable compared to those in the past. Asking for approx $70 for a $400k house is by no means extreme. It is very unfortunate that the tax assessment decreases caused the huge portion of the tax rate increase. I'm asking that you do not make the school suffer for this. At the very least could you please use the dollar amount increase stated above rather than focusing on the 9.5% tax rate increase. The percentage absolutely confused voters. It was not fair because they did not understand that the majority of that increase was due to the town decreasing the assessments. If voters vote no based on $70 increase (on approx $400,000 house whose assessment did not change) so be it. At least it was a fair fight . So Mr. Unger you won the battle. We hear your voice and I'm sure you have impacted next years budget! Please reconsider this year's. I would hope that we could join forces and now get some explanations from the town...that is the real war! Thanks for listening.
Douglas Unger May 25, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Ms. LR, (Part 1 of 3) I appreciate that you can see the validity of some of my arguments. I can only imagine the challenges of being a single mother. Believe me when I say it gave me no pleasure to stand out in the rain all day, get up a 6 AM in order to see which signs have been torn down so I could replace them, getting “blown off” by the tax assessor so you have to spend 3 days data mining the whole town’s tax assessment rolls to figure out what was REALLY happening with the Tuckahoe’s property assessments (The school/school board didn’t even have this information. Scary…VERY SCARY), in order to try to get the budget rejected. In reality, I was but one vote. Did I/Diane sway people to vote no? Maybe we did (I hope we did) or maybe we were just the “canaries in the coal mine” and the majority of the community thought like us and we thought like the majority of the community. Either way it was the community that rejected the budget. I’m glad that I have your attention. IMO, this is a step in the right direction; however, Tuckahoe has to be put on a different path and unfortunately many steps are going to be required to traverse this path. When the Tuckahoe school admin and board understand and ACT on the concerns of the WHOLE Tuckahoe community is when I know real change has come to Tuckahoe.
Douglas Unger May 25, 2012 at 11:56 PM
(Part 2 of 3) Remember this is the same admin/board that thought it was not just a good idea to renovate of the house on Sebonic Rd. for the new supervisor, but that is was a GREAT idea. This is the same board that started renovating the house 3 months before it was put up for a vote; spending over $20K in the process. I’m sure that money could have been put to better use in educating the children. As far as a FAIR fight goes. It has never been fair. The odds are stacked so far in the school’s favor it makes me dizzy. The school has a full admin staff, budget, has signs printed, flyers mailed, etc. Up until this year, voting down the budget could actually increase the tax levy. The school has not only one gathering, but two gatherings (spring festival in the morning and school play/chorus in the evening) of all the parents, CONVENIENTLY on the day of the budget vote. And the school CONVENIENTLY puts the children’s projects in the voting room. I’m waiting for what they will come up with for 6/19.
Douglas Unger May 25, 2012 at 11:57 PM
(Part 3 of 3) Concerning putting off the budget fight till next year, IMO that’s like an addict saying they will stop tomorrow. Right now Tuckahoe is addicted to budget votes always passing, and as with a lot of addictions sometimes outside intervention is required. As for what I’ll be doing, right now I’m waiting to see the amended budget proposed by the board. Who knows maybe we’ll all be pleasantly surprised. I try to be a glass is half full person. Unfortunately, every year when I get my new Tuckahoe tax bill I’m a glass and bottle is empty person. This is crazy Patch. You HAVE to increase the character count limitation on posts. Now I know why I don’t use Twitter. 140 characters there is no way.
Douglas Unger May 26, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Ok Tuckahoe parents, I have a question for you. The Tuckahoe School lobbed its 2012-2013 budget over to the Tuckahoe community and it was returned with a resounding NO. This means that the “ball” is currently in the school’s court. My question is “Are you questioning the school admin/board with the same intensity as you are questioning me?”. Are you telling the school that there is a REAL chance that the budget could go down and what are they doing about it? If you are, I would be interesting in what the school it saying. If you are NOT, I would be interested in why you are NOT.
Douglas Unger May 26, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Kevin L. I received an email that you posted a comment, but I don't see it here. Did you delete it?
Douglas Unger May 29, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Well Tuckahoe parents. Any response to my question? Of course, other than Kevin L.’s response which he decided to very quickly delete. Kevin L. you realize that everyone that was following the article got your full response. Just because you delete it doesn’t make it disappear. You should know that the web NEVER forgets. Ms. LR, I think that Kevin’s response took a lot of air out of your “we hear you” post.
LR May 29, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Mr. Unger I can not speak for Kevin. However I will say, in my opinion, most people do not want to see tax increases. As a parent and a taxpayer, I do not want to see my taxes increase. That is why I said that "we hear you". I don't think that Kevin expressing his discontent with the administrators changes that. I can understand Kevin being passionate about his children's education. We all are. As concerned parents, we will not sit back and watch our children's education be jeopardized by a budget being voted down for the wrong reasons. A very affluent neighbor of mine just informed that she changed her mind and voted NO because she was swayed at the last minute. She had no idea what she was voting NO on. All she saw was 9.5%. She had no idea that the tax levy increase was 1.99% Now she knows. She was surprised to hear that some voters would like us to merge with other districts who property values are much lower than ours. She was shocked to hear how LITTLE her taxes would have increased if she had voted YES. Mr. Unger, perhaps I should re-phrase it to "I hear you". That does not mean that I agree with the fact that you have chosen to oppose a reasonable budget with a reasonable increase. You will vote NO again and your taxes will still increase substantially and the students will suffer. You are trying to win a battle that is not worth winning and in the end we all lose the war.
David D'Agostino May 29, 2012 at 03:44 PM
“Are you questioning the school admin/board with the same intensity as you are questioning me?” Yes, Mr. Unger, some of us are and have been for years, because we are concerned that the children of this district get the education they deserve and that the board does not waste a single dollar that could go directly to the kids. By the way, 228-275 is not exactly a "resounding no." Do you expect people to simply accept your assertions on face value? If you do not want to be questioned, then stop posting.
Kevin L. May 29, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Oh spare me. Get in line behind the rest of the hacks that get perturbed when I do that, and thanks for the reminder about how the internet works. Until you pay taxes and have children your over bearing and obsessive interest in the programs, the projects, the kids at the Tuckahoe school are nothing short of sketchy if you ask me. But I'm going to refrain from flaming you because you are so sensitive.
Kevin L. May 29, 2012 at 07:54 PM
and to answer your question, I've been in to talk to Southampton Town government officials, been on the phone with The NY Assemblyman's office, the NY State department of education as well as the Southampton Assessors office and the SH Town Tax Collector's office.
Douglas Unger May 29, 2012 at 08:19 PM
My question was actually "is anyone questioning the school admin/board?", but I would still be interested in what the people you talked to said.
Meadow Lane May 29, 2012 at 09:05 PM
You're all arguing about so many nickels and dimes that I've forgotten what you're arguing about. My suggestion is that you get the golf courses in Tuckahoe to pay their fair share of taxes on hundreds of acres of land they own and you'll have the money you need without over burdening the homeowners of your district. Start a grass-roots community organization that starts out reminding your State Assemblyman who has the votes...looks to me like Tuckahoe has quite a few...and what you expect in terms of representation. I think the golf club members have beat you to the offices of the "decision makers" in this matter and you've been handed the short-end of the stick, so to speak. Time to take "effective action" and give the stinky stick back to its rightful owner!
Fred 'n Freeda May 29, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I'm with Meadow...golf courses were just given another cut in their tax rates at the same time that homeowners rates were raised. Who ever had the nerve to do that, doesn't deserve the vote of this taxpayer. Let's get to the bottom ot his and find ourselves some relief.
David D'Agostino May 29, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I have contacted Assembleyman Thiel on this very issue and his answer to me was "I could grandstand this issue, put in legislation…….but nothing would change." and "There is no other area of the state outside of Tuckahoe that is clamoring to change the rules for golf courses. " Apparently, the state legislators are not there to right unjust laws but to uphold the status quo. Mr. Thiele also asserted that "This issue has nothing to do with golf course owners contributing to local politicians.' Yet our Town Supervisor just held a fundraiser at Sebonack last week - coincidentally, their tax assessment was cut nearly in half.
David D'Agostino May 29, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Additionally, the golf course taxes are based on revenues, but they are on an honor system. No one from the town, county or state audits their books to ensure they are paying their fair share.
Peconic Sunset May 30, 2012 at 12:04 PM
I was intrigued by Assemblyman Thiel's comment and did a little research. After reviewing several papers, I think he is correct. It is a complicated area, see the following paper: http://www.golfprop.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=1d9TqBmVM7E%3d&tabid=60&mid=394
Hazel Wilkonson the First May 30, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Complicated, yes. Not worth the effort of challenging? It is that very attitude that makes people hate politicians.

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