The Times
  • After merger failure, Valley districts consider their options

  • After Thursday’s defeat of a proposed school merger, what’s next for Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk?

    As far as a merger —  nothing. At least not now.

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  • After Thursday’s defeat of a proposed school merger, what’s next for Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk?
    As far as a merger —  nothing. At least not now.
    After a binding referendum fails, school districts involved in such a decision are obligated by law to do nothing in terms of reorganizing for a year. There can’t be studies with other districts, and another vote can’t happen.
    But the week, the Ilion and Mohawk boards of education plan a joint special meeting to ask for legislation to go ahead and merge.
    “Both boards apparently have expressed an interest in it,” Mohawk interim Superintendent Gene Birne said.
    The idea is to ask for what’s called “special legislation” to be introduced by Assemblyman Mark Butler, R - Newport, and state Sen. James Seward, R - Milford, specifically asking the state legislature to permit the two districts to merge based on Thursday’s vote.
    That vote was the third time both communities said they wanted to merge. The first was in a proposed four-district straw vote that included Frankfort-Schuyler and the second in September’s three-district straw vote.
    Ilion Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said he would advise his board to seek the legislation.
    “I don’t think the children in Ilion need to be held down anymore,” he said.
    Martin Reid, deputy director of governmental relations for the New York State School Boards Association, said the move “would be rare.”
    “But it’s a good move on their part to try it because they obviously have the will and support to combine and make this attempt,” he said.
    If Butler and Seward agree, the earliest such legislation could be introduced would be in the special session after November’s election. Reid said the earliest he’d expect it to be voted on would be the spring.
    Also, he guessed another financial study of the two districts would have to be done.
    The merger defeat means another tough budget year for all the districts.
    “At this stage of the game I don’t have particulars,” Tangorra said, but he’s projecting a $1.5 million gap between revenue and expenses for the 2013 - 2014 school year.
    “We have genuine financial concerns for our future,” Birne said, but declined to comment further.
    The Mohawk Board of Education also would have to decide whether to start looking for a permanent superintendent or wait to see what happens in the spring.
    Herkimer interim Superintendent Garry Tutty said one of the first things Herkimer’s Board of Education has to do is start a search to replace him.
    Tutty has been at the helm since 2011 because of the merger discussions.
    “I will help the board as much as I can, but they’ve got to get that started right away,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Herkimer has a right to ask for another vote to merge with Ilion and Mohawk after the statutory year has expired. Tutty said he would recommend the board back off of that right now and let the two districts seek the special legislation.
    “Ilion and Mohawk had to make a decision last year and they included us (in the merger vote). We let them down,” he said. “They didn’t have to (include Herkimer). They deserve (to merge together).”
    Now that Herkimer is out of merger picture, Tutty said it’s important to heal the district, which was polarized by the merger vote.
    “We have to bring Herkimer back together again,” he said.

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