Tuckahoe Exploring Tax Options For School Merger

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The Tuckahoe School Board continues to pursue a merger with the Southampton School District. But two months after the first, failed attempt to have Southampton annex Tuckahoe, officials in Tuckahoe are trying to figure out how to mitigate the cost for Southampton taxpayers, who voted the proposal down.

Since Southampton’s taxpayers would otherwise see an increase in taxes if a merger went forward, one option could be to create two separate tax districts within the unified school district—a move that would require legislative intervention, as it is currently unconstitutional.

If state legislation changed that restriction, Tuckahoe officials said, the district could consider a referendum, similar to one recently passed on funding a beach nourishment project, in which Tuckahoe taxpayers could vote to raise their own taxes to ensure that there is little to no impact on Southampton voters.

“We could follow one model along the beach, where they leveled the surtax to pay for beach nourishment,” board member Dr. Daniel Crough said. “Something similar could happen here.”

While that is one option, board members are looking at several other options for funding the merger. They include finding retroactive building aid for the Southampton School District to mitigate taxes, and using state financial aid in the first few years of the merger instead of spreading it out over 10 years.

“There were three or four other avenues also being approached,” Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer said. “Assemblymen [Fred W.] Thiele and Senator [Kenneth] LaValle came down and met with us, and they were very positive in that meeting and said they were going to look at ways they might be able to find support for Tuckahoe.”

While Mr. Dyer said he is optimistic about the future of the merger, he said much of its success will depend on the new proposed tax rate. If the districts can find a way to make the merger beneficial for both districts, it will make it easier to bring it back to a vote. Mr. Dyer also said much more information must be shared with both communities before it can be brought back to the taxpayers.

“The way the taxes for school districts in the state of New York work, if there is a merger, both district residents pay an equal amount,” he said. “With this merger piece, rather than having an 8.7-percent increase for Southampton and a 65-percent decrease for Tuckahoe, maybe we could set it up so there would be very little, if no, impact for Southampton, and maybe only something like a 45-percent decrease for Tuckahoe. Right now, it is just not possible.”

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