The two-district merger study was the topic of discussion at Monday evening’s meeting of the Mohawk Board of Education, as several members of the public aired concerns.
“I joined the community advisory committee in hopes of discovering a better option, hoping I could find more positives, but I have concerns. As a result of informal meetings questions have risen,” said CAC member Terry Sterling. She said when the CAC met recently to review the study individuals noticed the debt ratio was listed for Mohawk Central School, but not for Ilion Central School.
“Mohawk’s debt is in the study rather than Ilion’s to show if and when Mohawk merges with a district that has a higher aid ratio we will receive more aid for debt, which will be a combined debt of both Mohawk and Ilion,” said interim Mohawk Superintendent of Schools Gene Beirne.
Mike Santillo, a senior at the district’s Jarvis Junior-Senior High School, asked if the board of education or school district looked into other options outside of a merger.
"We are limited by state law in what we can share and cannot share. You can save through sharing. The amount saved by sharing helps, but it is not enough,” said board of education President James Fleming.
Fleming added, “The merger study plan is a roadmap and it is not the only way to get to a merged district. Everyone has the right to vote yes or no on the merger, but staying as we are now and relying on state aid and taxes will not bring back what we lost.”
“It’s misleading to the public by promising extracurricular activities the merged district might not have funding for. If the merger vote does pass and the schools do merge the district will have to watch its spending,” said Sterling.
The public vote on the merger of the Ilion and Mohawk school districts will take place on Feb. 12.
Should it pass, the election of the board of education would take place on March 27.
The merged district would begin operation on July 1.
In other business Monday evening, Herkimer BOCES Executive Director of Business Operations Mark Deierlein gave a report on the 2013 - 2014 BOCES administrative and capital budgets.
The administrative budget carries a proposed two percent increase due to increases in teacher and staff retirement system contributions, as well as rising costs for post-retirement insurance.
“To better balance the budget we’re trying to reduce the amount of administrative and capital costs by making a combined $9,000 reduction in labor costs and interest expenses, and budgeting for less in every category,” Deierlein said during his presentation.
He added although BOCES will see a reduction in costs some districts may see an increase in their BOCES services fees due to Oppenheim-Ephratah’s merger with St. Johnsville.
Page 2 of 2 - “Since the schools have merged Oppenheim-Ephratah will no longer be using the services of Herkimer BOCES,” said Deierlein. “In order to make up the for $161,000 budget loss, the cost will be divided up and absorbed by other area schools that use Herkimer BOCES services.”
While programming costs may not change, school districts could struggle to provide students with the services, however, it is possible transition aid could help to reduce the pain, said Deierlein.
• During a state aid update Mohawk Business Manager Ken Long explained how the school district could see an increase in aid. For the 2013 - 2014 school year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a total of $10,045,787 in aid for Mohawk, which is $289,082 more than the 2012 - 2013 school year.
“That is $289,082 more than in 2012 - 2013. Of that $289,082, $160,043 is a result of reducing the gap elimination adjustment for Mohawk, from the $705,598 it had been to $545,555. The other $129,039 in extra aid is simply providing aid according to formulas for money that was spent last year,” said Long. “That is not new money, but rather reimbursement in part of money already spent. The only new money coming from the governor is $160,043.”