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Southampton, Tuckahoe merger meets mixed reaction at meeting

Steve Abramson from Water Mill speaks in opposition

Steve Abramson from Water Mill speaks in opposition to a proposed merger between the Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts during a Southampton School Board meeting in Southampton on Aug. 19, 2014. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Southampton and Tuckahoe parents had mixed reactions Tuesday to a renewed push to merge their two school districts.

Southampton Superintendent Scott Farina, at a school board meeting Tuesday, presented the highlights of what he called a new "line-by-line" analysis of the fiscal implications of annexing neighboring Tuckahoe. Southampton taxpayers rejected a similar idea last year.

This time around, the districts are aided by state legislation designed to blunt a sudden tax rate increase that previously proved unpalatable to residents of Southampton. A 2014 state budget amendment allows merging districts to equalize differing tax rates gradually, over a period of up to 10 years.

Tuckahoe's tax rate is much higher than Southampton's, meaning a merger would cause taxes in Tuckahoe to drop, and taxes in Southampton to rise.

Southampton voters overwhelmingly rejected consolidation in a straw poll in October. Tuckahoe voters supported it, even though it would have meant dissolving their school board.

Farina said consolidation would save $4 million and allow for an "early learning center" for young children.

He said that as a result of the state legislation, Southampton's tax rate would rise from $2.44 to $2.77 per $1,000 of assessed value over 10 years, amounting to an increase of about $330 on a house worth $1 million.

"We certainly think it's a softer tax impact for the Southampton taxpayer," Farina said.

Tuckahoe's tax rate would fall from $7.57 to $2.77 per $1,000 of assessed value over 10 years.

Cindy Beeker, who has two children in Tuckahoe, said kids in the two districts already play sports and attend camp together, and they should be made one district.

"I think we need to think about the kids in the community and stop worrying about every nickel and dime," she said.

But some Southampton parents disagreed.

"There's no positives for the Southampton school district," said Lori Tutt, who has two children in Southampton. "Our job is not to bail out any of the neighboring school districts."

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