The Tuckahoe Board of Education on Monday night voted for the second time in two years to hold a straw vote for district residents on a proposed merger with Southampton.
On November 18, taxpayers from the Tuckahoe and Southampton districts will head to separate polls to decide whether the idea of Southampton annexing the Tuckahoe School District on July 1 should move forward to a joint referendum. For the second vote to move forward, residents from both districts will have to approve the move.
With tax increase concerns derailing the vote in Southampton last October, 1,075-693, Southampton School District officials have worked to tweak the merger plan before bringing it back before the taxpayers. Southampton has now come up with a new “merger concept,” which includes two pieces of legislation from Albany—one that would slowly roll out the tax increases for Southampton residents, and another that would allow the district to use capital reserve funds to offset tax increases. The district is using a line-by-line comparison of both districts’ budgets to create a new, joint spending plan without any redundancies.
Under the new figures from Southampton, the tax rate for a home in Southampton valued at $1 million would increase incrementally over the next decade from $2.44 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $2.77 per $1,000. That means that for the 2024-25 school year, the tax associated exclusively with the merger would add no more than $330 to the overall school tax for a house valued at $1 million. For the years in between, the taxes paid to cover the merger would rise gradually until reaching that $330 cap.
The straw vote could be the last shot for the two districts to pursue the partnership they have been discussing for the past few years. Tuckahoe officials have said in recent weeks that if the straw vote fails again, the district will need to evaluate all possible cost-saving measures—including pulling Tuckahoe students, and roughly $3 million in tuition, from Southampton—to keep Tuckahoe afloat for the next few years. Although Tuckahoe residents approved the merger last year, 565-35, those voters will have to hit the polls again since the proposal has changed since last year.
At the same time, many Southampton residents believe the district would be fine without the Tuckahoe students. District officials have announced that while many of the Advanced Placement and honors classes could continue with reduced sections, after-school activities, sports and staff would all take a hit to come in under budget without the Tuckahoe tuition money.
With the straw vote scheduled, both districts need to approve moving forward to a final referendum. Each district’s straw vote will be tallied separately, with each needing a majority for the proposal to move forward. At the final referendum, which is tentatively scheduled for mid-January, the districts would need a combined majority for the annexation to take place on July 1, nullifying the Tuckahoe Common School District.
The straw vote for both districts is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Magee Street school for Tuckahoe residents and in the Intermediate School music room for Southampton residents.
This week, Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer said he is happy to be moving forward with the straw vote, and that the district is currently organizing an information session for district residents as soon as possible.
“We will have an opportunity to meet with our community again and reflect what we perceive to be the educational benefits and opportunities that we would be providing to our children through a successful merger,” Mr. Dyer said. “We are also working to meet with Southampton administrators to go over the information to provide our community with as many answers as possible.”