After several failed merger votes, the Frankfort-Schuyler and Herkimer school districts continue to go solo, facing yet another difficult budget year.
“They’re basically back to where they started. They have a lot of things to weigh, in Herkimer in particular,” said Mark Vivacqua, Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES district superintendent.
The decisions include whether they’re going to exceed the two percent tax cap or try to cut enough to stay under it, Vivacqua said.
A proposed four-district merger between Herkimer, Frankfort-Schuyler, Ilion and Mohawk was voted down in January 2012 by Frankfort-Schuyler voters.
After that, a three-district merger was voted down in October 2012 by Herkimer voters.
The final two-district merger was approved Feb. 12 by Ilion and Mohawk voters.
Without the merger, the Herkimer district will not be getting the merger incentive aid from the state, nor have the ability to combine services with the other districts to save money.
“We’re doing a lot of hand-wringing at the moment,” said John Cipriano, Herkimer Board of Education president. “We’ve known for a long time this was going to be a very, very difficult budget cycle were we not to have the merger.”
The district is currently starting its 2013 - 2014 budget process, Cipriano said, however, the proposed state aid is not what they would like it to be.
“That’s what has us all worried at the moment,” he said.
The district is currently looking at each department to see what can be streamlined, as well as services that can be shared with other districts and through BOCES.
“Wherever we possibly can save by sharing, we certainly do that,” he said.
But there may be cuts in the proposed budget, Cipriano said. “Everything is on the table. The way state aid is going, we may lose some of those extra curriculars,” he said.
The district may look to a merger solution again in the future, but it is not currently in the works, he said.
By not merging, the district also is in the process of hiring a superintendent, as it has had interims after the retirement of Carol Zygo to get it through the budget process.
This is the second budget process for Frankfort-Schuyler after the failed merger.
The district is currently working on its proposed budget, which looks to be tight, similar to last year, said district Superintendent Robert Reina.
The budget may include some reductions in teaching staff, such as one to two elementary school teachers but this is more due to declines in enrollment than district finances, he said.
Frankfort-Schuyler has no current merger plans, Reina said.
The district created an advisory committee made up of teachers, parents and community members to look at the districts programs and activities to get long-term planning ideas, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - “We’ll ask people for suggestions and ideas to help us,” Reina said. “The financial situation for the school districts, especially in upstate New York, I don’t it see getting any better in the near future.”