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Three District Merger meetings begin Wednesday

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk schools will begin their series of community merger meetings on Wednesday, June 6, where they will share the latest information on the proposal to merge the three school districts and give residents a chance to ask questions.

The three district proposal comes after the Frankfort-Schuyler district voted down a four district merger plan last year.

Under the proposal, Pre-K through Fourth Grade students will remain in their own districts. However, Fifth and Sixth Grade students would be in an Upper Elementary School housed at the current Mohawk High School building. Seventh and Eighth Grade students would be in the Herkimer High School building and High School classes would be at the Ilion High School.

If the plan passes as is, it will bring one district for the 2013-2014 school year.

Herkimer Superintendent Gary Tutty says that while the three districts will miss the Frankfort-Schuyler district joining them, a three district merger would benefit the students and the taxpayers.

In Herkimer and Mohawk, the merger is estimated to bring a reduction of between $300-400 in taxes on a house assessed at $100,000 and Ilion will see rates similar to what they are currently. However, Superintendent Tutty says it's not just about the money. He says that a merger would allow the schools to start bringing back programs that budget restraints have forced them to cut.

"We could start bringing back some of the programs that we've been losing over the last 3, 4 and 5 years," says Superintendent Tutty. "Just those alone would give students in the schools, like, 50 more choices of classes, and more choices in AP classes."

Superintendent Tutty says this year, Herkimer schools are down 15 employees from a year ago, and while the merger would cut some teaching positions, the cuts could be temporary. However, he says that with a merged district, there'd be more opportunities to bring them back.

"Well, I always say to them, if we don't merge, it's going to affect you much sooner and much longer, because unless the state's coming up with money, and I don't see that happening anytime soon, then they're going to be affected almost immediately and probably for the long term," says Tutty.

While this study does use a lot of the same information as the previous four district merger, much of it has also changed.

Now without Frankfort involved, they're looking at fewer students and a smaller merged district, thus less travel time than the four district merger proposed.

"Some people were worried about transportation and length of bus rides," says Tutty. "Because one district is not in there, it makes the new district smaller so we won't have that concern."

The first public meeting will be 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Mohawk's Gregory Jarvis Junior-Senior High School.

Other Community Meetings on the merger to be held include:

Wednesday, July 25 at 6 p.m. - Herkimer High School

Thursday, August 9 at 6 p.m. - Ilion High School

Wednesday, August 22 at 6 p.m. - Herkimer County Community College

The schools will also be open for tours beginning at 4:30 p.m. on the nights of the forums.

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