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New approach for three district merger meetings

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

MOHAWK, N.Y. (WKTV) - Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk schools began their series of community merger meetings Wednesday at Mohawk's Jarvis High School. Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee, which reviews data for the merger study, say they feel more confident now than when presenting the four district merger study with Frankfort-Schuyler Schools involved, because they have a different approach. Instead of presenting all the information of the over 60 page study, committee members and school superintendents focused on addressing residents specific concerns.

The three school district's superintendents explained that with three districts involved, bus rides would be shorter than with the proposed four district merger. The longest bus ride is anticipated to be 45 minutes. They also detailed the new courses, sports, arts and other extra-curricular activities a three district merger would bring.

After the first public meeting, members of the committee felt the clear presentation is giving people the right information and answers to make a decision whether or not to merge.

"Those that maybe are on the fence or maybe not quite sure have very good questions, when we answer those questions they seem to feel a little bit better about the prospect," says Dale Miller of the Citizen Advisory Committee."That doesn't mean they're sold but I think they're at least open to the conversation and that's the important part."

All three districts passed the merger plan in January, however Herkimer voters only passed it with a narrow margin.

When asked, ' We got by this year why do we need to merge?' Superintendents explained that this year the districts used fund balance and reserves to limit program cuts and the money is now gone. They said that even with a modest increase in state aid all three schools would have to make deep cuts in the 2013-14 school year and that their situation is essentially to either merge or cut.

The next community meeting is July 25th at Herkimer High School.

The Advisory Referendum, or "straw vote," will be September 12th.

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