CROWN POINT — More than 200 people filled the Crown Point Central School auditorium recently to express their feelings on a possible merger between that school and the Ticonderoga district.
A recently released study concludes that combining the two districts would be advantageous both academically and financially, especially in an age of declining school enrollments.
But if the comments of those attending the meeting are representative of the two communities, especially Crown Point, many residents are opposed to merging because they fear a loss of community identity and don’t believe that costs and taxes really would decrease, as the report claims.
SOME BUSED TO TI
The study proposes that elementary students in Crown Point would still go to school there, but middle- and high-school students would be bused to Ticonderoga.
Elementary pupils in Ticonderoga would still attend Ticonderoga Elementary School.
Academic opportunities for students would increase with a merger, the study says, with more honors and advanced-placement courses available.
The study was conducted by Jessica Cohen and Alan Pole of Castallo & Silky, Educational Consultants of Syracuse, assisted by an 18-member Joint School Merger Study Committee representing both districts.
Cohen and Pole are retired school superintendents who have compiled many such studies in the past.
“We bring the perspective other communities have had,” Cohen said. “We’re talking about the future of these two districts.
“There is no recommendation from us on whether a merger should occur. We leave that to your communities.”
She said the study began in January, funded by a grant from the New York State Department of State.
The new district would get about $12 million in merger aid from the state over a period of 14 years, Pole said.
He recommended that the aid not be simply added to annual budgets.
“Districts have run out of incentive-aid money and had to raise taxes.”
SAYS LOWER TAXES
Pole said the best plan would be to use 25 percent of the aid for merger costs, 25 percent in a savings account to ensure long-term fiscal stability and 50 percent to reduce the tax levy.
“You can mitigate against tax increases that way.”
The study showed that if a merger were to take place, property taxes would go down about 19 percent in Crown Point and 8 percent in Ticonderoga.
“I don’t think there’s any question taxes would go down in the districts,” Pole said.
NO JOB CUTS ALLOWED
Ticonderoga has 841 students this year, while Crown Point has 256.
Enrollment has been dropping in both districts, and Ticonderoga is expected to continue with declining numbers while Crown Point stabilizes.
One parent asked Pole if the State Department of Education would force them to merge somewhere down the road, whether they voted for it or not.
“I suppose that’s possible,” Pole said. “I highly doubt it. It’s just too hot a topic (forced merger).”
The study concludes that any payroll savings would have to occur through attrition, since both districts have teacher and support staff contracts that guarantee no loss of jobs due to merger or annexation.
‘WOULDN’T FEEL WELCOME’
Crown Point resident Catherine Muller Harmon said that underuse of the school building at Crown Point could be used as an excuse to close it altogether.
“A lot of our jobs would be moving to Ticonderoga. They could say the building’s not being used; (that) it should be closed.”
Crown Point resident Steven Mackay spoke against keeping the Crown Point School building.
“It makes no sense to keep this building open.”
Mackay was opposed to a merger, in any event.
“The only advantage I can see in going to Ticonderoga is curriculum, and how much curriculum does a student need?”
One woman from Crown Point said students might be nauseated by longer bus rides to schools where they wouldn’t feel welcome.
“It’s still us going to their school,” she said.
Students from the Town of Hague in Warren County have been part of the Ticonderoga district since 1979, and they handle it fine, Pole said.
“Kids are resilient. They acclimate.”
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