The Tuckahoe Board of Education unanimously voted in favor of moving forward with a proposed merger with the Southampton School District on Monday night.
The approval by the board was the first hurdle necessary for the merger to move forward. With Tuckahoe’s approval, the Southampton Board of Education will cast their vote on the issue at the October 1 meeting.
If the Southampton board approves the merger, the proposal, which would annex the Tuckahoe school into the Southampton School District effective on July 1, will go to votes in each community on October 29. If either community fails to pass the vote, the merger will die, but if it passes, a final vote will be cast by both districts, and supervised by the state education department, on December.
“The study team did a great job presenting a road map of what would happen in the merged school district,” Tuckahoe Board President Bob Grisnik said during Monday nights meeting. “We plan on working with Southampton and their school board and getting that information out, educating both communities on a lot of different things having to do with the merger, so everybody is fully informed and can make a good decision when they go to vote yes or no.”
The possibility of the merger has long been discussed, but the study was not begun until last October, when both school boards voted to move forward. According to Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer, the difficult decision was forced by the financial situation of his district. Mr. Dyer estimates that due to the state mandated 2-percent tax levy cap, the district will have exhausted all of its reserve funds by the 2015-16 school year.
The current 2013-14 budget for Southampton is $61.9 million, and the current budget for Tuckahoe is $18.5 million. According to the study, the 2014-15 budget for the newly merged district would be about $71.5 million, approximately $8.9 million less than the two districts’ combined 2013-14 budgets, which total about $80.4 million, even without taking into account increases that could be expected in their separate budgets between 2013-14 and 2014-15.