Voters in the small Tuckahoe school district in Southampton Town Tuesday rejected what has become a controversial proposal to spend up to $95,000 from an existing reserve fund to renovate a district-owned house that could then be rented to its superintendent.
The measure failed by a vote of 249 to 70.
"If it [the decision] is in service to the community, I'm good with whatever the outcome is," Superintendent Joseph Dyer said before the vote.
The referendum had generated debate in the community, with several people complaining at a recent meeting about a lack of transparency over the decision to put the measure up for a vote. Dyer said all of the board's actions took place in public.
The school board had said it intends to rent the house to Dyer at "fair market price," but there are no clear plans about what to do if Dyer and his wife purchase another house. He has a three-year contract, and the couple currently is looking for a house in the community.
Dyer, who began work in August, also serves as principal of the district's only school, which has 360 students in grades K-8. Another 200 teens attend high school in neighboring Southampton.
Dyer and his wife now rent a house in Tuckahoe on a month-to-month lease.
District residents voted to buy the modest house and its half-acre of property adjacent to the school because of a commitment made several years ago, when the school was expanded.
State education officials would not approve the expansion work because the district did not have enough land, but granted a waiver after Tuckahoe promised to acquire additional land in the future to meet state standards, Dyer said.
Along with the half-acre property came a dilapidated 1,600-square-foot house. After looking into possible uses, the school board decided to renovate it, a move that would not raise taxes because the money is already in a reserve fund. To be usable, the house needs a new heating system and plumbing work.
Dyer said there were two other choices - convert the building into office space for $600,000, or make it into a new classroom for about $400,000. If the district does nothing, he said, the uninhabited house - part of which was built in the 1940s - would likely continue to decay.