Chemung County Schools Turn Down Merger

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A school merger that aimed to combine the Elmira Heights and Horseheads districts is off the table after residents overwhelmingly rejected the proposition Thursday. In Elmira Heights, Superintendent Mary Beth Fiore says three quarters of the ballots came up “no”.

“Clearly there was a desire to preserve the small school atmosphere in spite of some of the challenges that we’re faced with,” she says.

Those challenges are mainly financial. Elmira Heights, Horseheads and many other New York districts have faced tight budgets lately, thanks in part to post-recession state funding cuts. The two schools hoped to save money with shared services, but Fiore is even-keeled about the “no” vote. She says a merge actually wouldn’t have erased her biggest challenges, which are state-wide issues.

“We’ve got to find some answers to the cost of healthcare, and we’ve got to find some answers to how we choose to fund our pension systems in the state,” she explains. She also says the state needs a more equitable way to fund schools.

A merger vote fails if either district says no. The Elmira Star-Gazette reports that Horseheads voters also vetoed the proposition.

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