Smaller school districts facing budget issues and financial tangles may want to consider merging with neighboring schools. That's the gist of a new report issued by the New York State School Boards Association.
The recently merged Oppenheim Ephratah St. Johnsville School District in Montgomery County is regarded by many as a “showcase” model for a successful merger, in the spirit of the NYSSBA report.
Having to contend with rising prices for educational materials, the tax cap that limits revenue, and declining enrollment in rural districts, the report touts mergers as a way of preserving educational integrity and avoiding cuts to essential programs.
The process of merging schools entails a number of steps: the state has to give its approval, then the school boards, and then, voters. Two Herkimer County districts recently merged: Ilion and Mohawk are now known as "Central Valley." The merger brings 42 million dollars in additional state aid over the next two years.
A merger study forum was scheduled to convene on Eastern Long Island this week as the Southampton and Tuckahoe School Districts explore the possibility of joining forces in time for the 2014-2015 school year. That study took eight months to complete.
Long Islanders will vote on their plan in early December. In the Adirondacks, residents in the Northville and Mayfield school districts will be voting in January for the second time about merging. Merger plans DO fail: In 2011, voters in Hamilton County flatly rejected combining the Wells and Lake Pleasant districts due to concerns about bussing and the fact that property taxes would have increased in Lake Pleasant.