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The Times
  • Superintendents on proposed merger: Get out and vote

  • The fourth and final information session on the proposed merger between the Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts took place on neutral ground at Herkimer County Community College on Wednesday night.

    Throughout the meeting the districts’ superintendents urged community members to express their opinions and vote in the advisory referendum on Sept. 12.

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  • The fourth and final information session on the proposed merger between the Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts took place on neutral ground at Herkimer County Community College on Wednesday night.
    Throughout the meeting the districts’ superintendents urged community members to express their opinions and vote in the advisory referendum on Sept. 12.
    If all three districts vote yes on Sept. 12, then a statutory referendum will take place on Oct. 18. Once that vote has been counted and if all three districts again vote yes, petitions for the merged district’s board of education would be accepted. A new board of education would be chosen during a Dec. 19 election and the new merged district would begin operation on July 1, 2013. For those who need an absentee ballot for the Sept. 12 vote, one can be obtained by contacting their district office.
    Ilion Superintendent of Schools Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said the merger process has been four years in the making . “We have reached the end of this process and it’s important that everyone votes and not just votes, but votes knowing all the facts to make the best decision,” he said.
    If residents have questions or are unsure about the facts they are encouraged to reach out to the three superintendents, school board members or members of the community advisory committee.
    “How the merger works out is up to you. Please vote and if you feel like you need to know more, review the merger study plan or please ask us,” said Mohawk Superintendent Joyce Caputo.
    Through the merger the new school district could receive up to $58,935,009 in state aid. Over the course of the next five years 60 percent of the state aid would be given to the district.
    Superintendent of Herkimer Schools Gary Tutty said after five years have passed the merged district would only receive four to five percent of the aid until it eventually runs out.
    “The aid is there to help us start a new district and become settled by investing and spending money wisely. Once the aid is gone we’re on our own,” he said.
    Tangorra explained the importance of staying on track since the state aid will not be given forever.
    “The merger study is a road map that has been carefully put together to guide the new district in the right direction,” he said. “The additional aid is much more than any of the three districts are used to and it might seem like a good idea to use the aid to add even more courses, but it would be pointless to add something that could be cut in four to six years due to financial issues. We have stick to the merger plan and be careful not to get off course.”
    Page 2 of 2 - If the merger is approved Tangorra said it could help several local residents save money.
    “Through the merger, property taxes would be reduced for residents of the current Herkimer and Mohawk school districts, while property taxes for residents of the current Ilion school district would remain the same,” he said.
    When it came time for a community advisory committee member to speak Father Mark Cunningham said there is a moral question in the merger matter.
    “We need to do what’s right for the people of the community,” he said. “There is money available that has never before been offered. What do we have to lose?”
    Many residents were concerned with keeping their individual identities.
    “There is nothing wrong with preserving one’s past. Bombers, Mohicans and Magicians should be remembered, but new traditions can also be created,” said Cunningham.
    “All three districts have made many cuts and right now the choice is either a three district merger or to make even more cuts. If we wait any longer because we’re afraid of losing our individual identities we’re looking at a lose situation because in the next few years to come we may not even have them,” said Tutty.
    Committee member Joan Prymas said, “As a retired professor at Herkimer County Community College I taught students for 31 years from Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk and there were no differences between the districts. Each of the students were there to learn with one another.”
    Prymas acknowledged how her son struggled to keep up with other students while attending Hamilton College. “My son went to Ilion from kindergarten until he graduated, and I think the district gave a solid education, as well as the other districts involved in the merger, but many of the students at Hamilton were offered much more in other high schools compared to my son. My son is now in his second year of medical school and is doing well, but he fought his way because he was not presented with as many opportunities five years ago when he graduated,” she said. “If we want the young people to come back to the area, we need to give the current and future students a chance to experience better opportunities right here in their own communities.”
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