ICC, Schodack mull timeline for possible merger

KINDERHOOK — The Ichabod Crane and Schodack School Boards held a special meeting Tuesday, October 11 to discuss the Functional Consolidation Study the districts are conducting. Though no decisions have been made about whether the two districts will merge, they did talk about a time line that would be followed if they do decide to hold votes on consolidation.

The two boards met at the Ichabod Crane Middle School with the three members of the SES-Study Team, which is conducting the merger study for the districts. ICC and Schodack were awarded a state grant to look into consolidation last year. After hiring SES to collect the data, they appointed 30 community members, 15 from each district, to meet with SES and review the data. The committee has had seven meetings so far, and Paul Seversky of the SES Team says the committee should be ready to present the data to the board in December.

Mr. Seversky, and his partners at SES, Doug Exley and Sam Shevat, reviewed the time line with the boards. SES will have a report for the board showing members what a combined district would look like. They reviewed the financial aspects of consolidation and even suggested a tax levy percentage for the combined district’s school budget. The boards should see that report in January along with a state Education Department review of the data.

The state and SES will make no recommendations, Mr. Seversky stressed. The state reviews the SES report to make sure the data are correct. The report “helps us picture what this new school would look like,” said Mr. Shevat.

Mr. Seversky added, “What the boards do with this information is up to them.”

The boards do not have to decide to put the question of the consolidation to voters but may look at the report for guidance on sharing services.

To merge the two districts, both boards would have to agree, make formal motions and hold public hearings. They would hold a non-binding “straw vote” in their communities as well. If the straw vote is in favor of merger in both communities there would have to be a binding vote. In the time line presented to the board this week, a binding vote could be held as early as the fall of 2012. If voters approve a merger, consolidation could take place as soon as July 2013.

Board members from both districts worried about creating a 2012-13 school budget while also trying to inform community members about the possibility of a merger. Interim ICC Superintendent Lee Bordick reminded the boards that they still don’t know how the 2% cap on property tax increases and reduction in state aid will affect budgeting. He and board members talked about what a difficult process budgeting would will be for next year.

“You’re giving them a bitter apple,” said Schodack Board member Paul Puccio of next year’s school budget, “and then you’re giving them a bucket of roses…. I know we need more time to make a decision, but I don’t want people to think this is a set up.”

Most board members felt it was important to get to get the information out to the public as early as possible. The SES team said everything the committee has looked at is online at the schools’ websites for review. There will also be a public hearing in February about the report after the state has reviewed it.

The next merger committee meeting is October 24 in Schodack at the Maple Hill School Library at 6 p.m. Members of the public are invited to attend. For more information to www.ichabodcrane.org or www.schodack.k12.ny.us.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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