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Voters head to polls to decide whether or not Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville schools should merge

By HILARY LANE

ST> JOHNSVILLE and OPPENHEIM, N.Y. (WKTV) - Oppenheim and St. Johnsville residents were out in force on Tuesday, casting their vote to decide whether their two school districts should merge.

Both school districts have lost close to half a million dollars in state aid over the past five years.

Mackenzie Lawyer, a senior at St. Johnsville High School, is feeling the brunt of the funding cuts.

Many of the activities she enjoyed, such as soccer, art, and photography have been cut and now she has to bring her own camera and develop her own photos in photography class because of the lack of funding.

"I have to pay for my own stuff now and before we didn't have to," says Lawyer. "It's tough at home when you have to pay for stuff and now I have to bring extra money to school because we don't have the necessities anymore."

If the schools do merge, the combined school district would receive $14 million in incentive aid over the next 14 years.

Lawyer says the new funding would help save her school.

"In the next couple of years, our schools could shut down, and we really need this," says Lawyer. "We want our programs back."

However, other residents are voting against the proposal because they are unclear what will happen after the incentive funding runs out.

"All this slowly but surely is going to be on the taxpayers," says Mitchell Cronin from Oppenheim. "What this is, as far as I am concerned, is, you take a credit card, go down to the ATM and take the money out and after 15 years, the taxpayers are going to pay it back."

If the resolution passes on Tuesday, the public will vote for a final referendum on December 7.

The new school district could begin as early as June 2012.

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