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Herkimer Interim Superintendent: "If people think they have ideas, I'm willing to listen to them"

By JOLEEN FERRIS

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - Interim Herkimer Central School Superintendent Gary Tutty hasn't been sleeping nights since his district defeated a proposed school merger with Ilion and Mohawk last week.

While the merger has gone away, the district's tough choices remain and Tutty is appealing to parents and taxpayers to help chart a painful course.

"Don't wait for me to set up a budget and then attack it," Tutty said.

He says he wants to form an Advisory Committee of Community Stakeholders who were both for and against the proposed school merger.

"What I'm asking them is, please sit down with me now," he said.

The merger has gone away for Herkimer, but their daunting budget problems remain. The school district is looking at a $1 million gap and less than half that for a fund balance and no easy choices.

"Now it's going to be, where do we go from here? Do we continue to cut or do we continue to raise taxes above the 2%? You can't have both," Tutty said. "You can't have what we have now, which isn't even what we had 5 years ago."

Tutty sent a no holds-barred letter to the entire district saying that, as someone with no close friends, it breaks his heart to hear stories of people who have been friends for years, only to be torn about by the merger study and vote. He adds that, while he seeks input from stakeholders, "the superintendent makes too much money because I read it on Topix" isn't the kind of constructive input the kids need.

"If people think they have ideas, I'm willing to listen to them," he said.

Desperation, frustration, and maybe a hint of hopelessness, the Herkimer Magicians are facing an uphill battle and could use some magic right about now.

"The hard part is that you're making all these sacrifices and you're already less than you were before," Tutty said. "I don't think people realize how little we have left. So where do we go from here? It's not like we're cutting from the meat. We're cutting from the bone, now."

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