Sunday, September 23, 2012

QUESTION: How many members serve on other schools in NYS, and how long are their terms of office?

According to the NYS School Board Association, there are some 620 or so school districts in NYS.  Among them, more than half (53%) are comprised of 7 board members, another quarter have 5 members (25%), and one in five have 9 members (20%). Most typically these members serve three year terms of office (71%). Most of the rest (27%) have terms of five years.

Of course these schools are of varying sizes. What if we look at schools that are within 200 students (plus or minus) of what we would have in the merged district of Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk?  In that case almost all of the schools have 3 year terms of office and more than half have 7 board members.

Hopefully this type of data can help you decide how many board members and how long the terms of office should be when you enter the booth to vote on October 18th !

QUESTION: What Will We Be Voting On For The Final October 18 Ballot?

Many people are wondering what the actual ballot on October 18th will look like? 

Well the exact layout and wording is not finalized yet, however we do know that voting there will be three parts to the ballot.

First, we have to vote (ONE MORE TIME) to support the merger of the Herkimer, Ilion, and Mohawk school districts. While this has passed twice already, DON'T FORGET TO STILL VOTE IN FAVOR OF THE MERGER ! This is the single most important part of the ballot ! We need to make a stand and pass this once again!

Second, we will be asked how many school board members we'd like to have represent the new district. Typically this is 3,5,7, or 9. A future post will talk about what other NYS schools have in terms of the number of board members.

Third, we will be asked how long the terms of members of the new board will be. Again, this tends to be either 3, 5, or 7 years. Information about the typical lengths of terms will be found in a future post.

So as you can see, there will be three questions - should we merge, how many board member should represent us, and how long should those board members serve. It's as easy as...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Signs For The Merger

We still have a FEW signs left if someone would like to show there support for the merger ! The nonbinding straw vote is on September 12th, so now is the time to share your feelings about this important step toward improving our kids education ! Contact us at friends of the merger ( and we'll be sure to get a sign to you ASAP ! But hurry because they are going fast !

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tipping The Scales: A Side-By-Side Comparison of the Merger With The Separate Districts

This post is about a side by side comparison of the reality of merging the three districts, versus what the districts will have separately if no merger were to occur. Sometimes it’s helpful to see them in terms of a balance scale, with the merger on one side, and the non-merger on the other. These are simple facts, comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

EXPENSES: Let’s start with the basics of the economics of merging the three districts. As seen on the scale below, the districts total anticipated expenditures for the 2012-2013 school year would be about $63.3 million. A merged district would have a proposed budget that is very similar, coming in at about $63.9 million. That is less than 1% higher and of course comes with a LOT of additional course offerings, extracurricular activities, transportation support, etc. In the end they are pretty close to being equal in terms of how much money the districts would spend regardless of whether they merged or not.
REVENUES: But what about the revenues available to the districts ?  Regular state aid monies are anticipated to be identical, regardless of whether the merger takes place. The three districts would get about $41.3 million in state aid separately in 2012-2013. That is the same anticipated regular state aid that the merged district would get. So the revenue side of the budget would be identical regardless of whether the merger occurs or not.
INCENTIVE AID: If the expenditures and the revenues are going to be the same, then what’s the fiscal advantage of merging? That’s where the incentive aid comes in ! Almost $59 million in incentive aid will ONLY be available to the merged district. Let’s repeat that – $59 million will ONLY be available IF the three districts go ahead with the merger. The proposal is that this will result in (at least initially) $6.2 million more each year !

So fiscally a merged district:
  • Doesn’t cost anything more appreciably to run (less than 1% more in cost)
  • Get’s the same amount of regular state aid
  • Receives $59 million in special incentive aid

So the question is: Do we want to leave $59 on the table for some other districts in another part of the state to use as part of their merger ?

ACADEMICS: This is of course, not just about the money ! It’s also about the students and their educational experiences. What does a merged district offer compared to the three districts remaining separate when it comes to academics? It turns out, a lot ! When you look at just the core courses (English, Math, Social Studies and Science), students gain a huge advantage by being able to access more classes. In addition, language, technology, art, and music courses will be expanded in both the secondary and elementary schools ! There is also a big jump in the exposure that secondary students will have to Advance Placement and College Now opportunities. Almost 25 AP or College Now courses will be available in the new district. That translates into about one out of every six course that can provide a student with college credit !


So as you considered the merger of the three districts versus keeping them separate…

…Consider expenditures: they are almost identical;
…Consider revenues: they will get the same amount of regular state aid;
…Consider access to incentive aid: $59 million IF the merger takes place, $0 if it doesn’t; and
…Consider the academic opportunities gained through merging !

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

QUESTION: So What Will This Merged District Cost?

The merged district will offer new sports, new music and language programs and more course options for students. How much will all of this cost ?

While there is no doubt that a primary concern of many people (not the least of which is our students themselves!) is the educational value that a merged district can offer, there is another concern, particularly to those paying taxes – What will the cost of this new merged district be like in comparison to what we presently have ?

In order to talk about the costs, let’s look at the basic component parts of any budget – expenditures and revenues.

EXPENDITURES - The expenditures are basically the costs of doing the business of educating our young people. Estimating the expenditures for the 2013-2014 school year, the three districts as they presently exist have a combined set of expenditures of around $63.3 million. That is the combined cost of all three districts operating separately.

In comparison, the merged district expenditures are projected to total about $63.9 million for the same school year. This is about $600,000 more than the districts separately. This is less than 1% more than is currently spent in each of the three districts.

But what about the revenue side of the equation ?

REVENUES - In terms of revenues, without getting into the morass of funding streams, basically the three districts operating as separate entities get roughly $41.3 million from the State of New York in “regular” state aid. This actually includes federal as well as state aid, and some miscellaneous aid but for the sake of discussion it will be referred to as “regular” state aid.

This amount of “regular” aid wouldn’t change in a merged district. So the usual state aid coming into the merged district would remain at about $41.3 million. But there is additional aid that will also be available to the merged district that wouldn’t be to the districts if they remain separate. This is state incentive aid. In total, the new district would have about $59 million made available to it in “incentive” aid over a 14 year period ! The study suggests that the money be allocated over that period of time at a clip of about $6.2 million each year. This money does decline in the 6th year of the 14 year cycle, being reduced annually by about $620,000 each year. See this post about how the Study team proposes we manage this incentive aid.

BOTTOM LINE - So back to the question – how much does this cost us financially ? Well, the expenditures between the two possible arrangements (merged versus separate districts) are essentially the same - $63 million. The potential revenues are substantially different.
Expenditures, Revenues, and State Incentive Aid
Regardless of whether the districts merge, “regular” state aid will be the same - $41.3 million. It is ONLY if we merge that we get a financial boost – specifically $59 million in “incentive” aid spread across 14 years. So in terms of revenue, a merged district has (at least initially) a $6 million per year advantage over the present arrangement.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE - So what happens when that aid runs out in 14 years ? Well, there are three answers to that.

The first is that the Study suggests placing some $10 million over the life of the incentive aid into the reserve fund of the new district. This will help stretch out the fiscal advantage of the merger even further.

Second, the Study suggest applying $10 million to paying off some of the district’s debt in order to free additional monies for the future as well. The less you pay in debt services, the more you have for other things. Again, this extends the impact of the incentive aid further into the future beyond the 14 year payout period.

Lastly, what happens is that the district is no worse off than the three are right now ! If in 14 years the incentive aid flat out ends, and we have done nothing else, we will still have a school system with expenditures almost identical to what we they would have been if no merge took place, and a stream of “regular” state aid that would also be the same. What we WILL have gotten is $59 million in the meantime that has helped us established a superior educational system to what we have presently, in light of the cuts to staffing and programs that we have had to endure.

In the end, the expenditures to teach our kids will be the same regardless of whether we merge; the regular state aid we receive will also be the same whether we combine the districts or not.

The real fiscal question is “Do we want to leave $59 million on the table ?”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Twenty Five Reasons To Favor The Merger

Here are 25 reasons 
to favor  the merger 
of the three
school districts !

  1. English 111 (College Now)
  2. English 112 (College Now)
  3. English Language and Composition (AP)
  4. American History I (College Now)
  5. American History II (College Now)
  6. US History (AP)
  7. Psychology (College Now)
  8. Civil War (College Now)
  9. World History (AP)
  10. Contemporary Math (College Now)
  11. Calculus (College Now)
  12. Pre-Calculus (College Now)
  13. Pre-Calculus Honors (College Now)
  14. Math Statistics I (College Now)
  15. Calculus AB (AP)
  16. Anatomy and Physiology (College Now)
  17. Biology and Lab (AP)
  18. Geology (College Now)
  19. Spanish IV (College Now)
  20. French IV (College Now)
  21. French V (College Now)
  22. Music Theory (College Now)
  23. Performance Theater (College Now)
  24. Music in Our Lives (College Now)  

Rising to the Top - AP and College Now Courses

While we have looked at the core and non-core courses that will be available in the merged school district, there is another subset of courses that have truly suffered within the area as a result of cuts and budget restrictions. These are the "College Now" and "Advance Placement" (AP) courses.

College Now courses are basically college courses taught by high school teachers where if a student passes the course they can receive college course credit. AP courses are college level coursework that's a bit more stringent in that a student needs to pass the course and achieve a higher level of accomplishment in order to get college credit.

In a merged district, almost 25 AP or College Now courses (combined) will be available to students ! That would be about ONE out of every SIX courses offered in the H.I.M. district that would be either an AP or College Now class !

This is a tremendous boost for those wanting to attend college by letting them earn college credit before they actually graduate from high school ! At present, Herkimer only offers about a dozen such courses, Mohawk offers less than ten, and Ilion offers about 18 College Now or AP courses. Students presently in all three districts could have their opportunities for college credit work increase substantially if the three districts merge.