Small school districts across the state are finding it hard to survive. Hamilton and Morrisville-Eaton School Districts are just two where leaders say their dire financial situation has them looking toward extreme cost-saving measures, including a possible merger. But on Tuesday the communities involved voiced their opinions at the polls and as our Cara Thomas tells us, the result has district leaders unsure of their next move.
MADISON COUNTY, N.Y. --It was a last resort for leaders at Hamilton and Morrisville-Eaton School Districts. Due to their serious financial situations, district leaders had to make a drastic decision.
Mike Drahos, Superintendent of Morrisville-Eaton School District, said, "Over the years at Morrisville-Eaton we've cut 20 percent of our entire staff, 50 percent of our extracurricular opportunities."
"We're struggling to keep programs and we're trying to look at multiple options to make sure we offer our younger students the same quality of education we offer our high school students at this point," said Diana Bowers, Superintendent of Hamilton School District.
With not many cost saving options left, three years ago Hamilton and Morrisville-Eaton School Districts began discussing the possibility of a merger.
Drahos said, "Since that time we went through a formal study which that ended and now that's led us to today in which we're asking out two communities on an advisory or straw vote what they think about it."
The two schools have already combined some sports teams, so voters at Morrisville-Eaton didn't see the harm in taking it one step further. The public voted in favor 339 to 163.
Jennifer Pierce, a Teacher and Parent at Morrisville-Eaton School District, said, "I believe that my child can have far more opportunities with a yes merger vote combining the two districts resources, manpower, money, etc."
But in Hamilton, voters overwhelmingly voted no, 720 to 249. Some residents say they felt a merger was only a short-term solution, and transportation would be a nightmare.
"I'm a Hamilton Resident and I feel that Hamilton school kids should go to Hamilton School only," said Christy Jones-Maxwell.
Now that the merger is off the table, districts leaders say they'll head back to the drawing board. They'll be looking to the community for more cost-saving ideas to keep the schools afloat.