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GLENS FALLS -- The state is still offering money to entice school districts to merge. And given the state's desire for school consolidations, it's unlikely the incentive will be taken away.

On Thursday, state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, said this year's state budget includes reorganizational aid - additional money given to schools that merge.

Little said she assumes the funding will be available each year because the state wants school districts to consolidate. Consolidation can save money by eliminating redundant services.

On Wednesday, the Abraham Wing school board delayed a vote that would have led to a study on the feasibility of a merger with the Glens Falls City School District.

Board President Michael Busch said the board wanted to know if the state still provided extra money to districts that merge, given the tough financial times facing New York.

As a result, the board voted to table a resolution to accept a $37,800 state grant that will pay for the study. The board will vote on the grant money in October.

Busch could not be reached for comment at his home Thursday night. He did not return two messages from The Post-Star.

On Friday, Superintendent Ella Collins said the school's account clerk, Judy Hemingway, contacted the state Department of Education on Wednesday to find out if the state was still offering the funds.

But the state official who could provide the answer was unavailable, Collins said.

"Judy has made a contact with (the state Department of Education) and we have not heard back from them," Collins said.

School districts that merge receive a 40 percent increase in operational aid (money districts could use to operate their schools) for five years. The funds then decrease by 4 percent each year, ending after 14 years, said Jane Briggs, a department spokeswoman.

Districts also receive a 30 percent increase in funding that pays for school construction projects, she said.

In August, the two school districts in Glens Falls received the grant from the state Department of State to fund a study. Both school boards have to vote on accepting the grant, however.

Little said the study will show the amount of additional state funds the merged district can receive. It will also reveal the effects that a merger has on taxes and enrollment.

"I really hope that they (Abraham Wing) do vote for it because it will give them a better picture going forward and something to really base their decision on," Little said.

By approving the grant, the school boards only commit themselves to hiring someone to perform the study, Little said.

Residents of the Abraham Wing School - known formally as the Glens Falls Common School District - have long opposed merging with the city school district.

Some have expressed a fear their school would close.

Little said Abraham Wing could not close because it's more than a mile away from the nearest elementary school. Closing the school would require the district to provide bus services.

Districts have to provide transportation to elementary children who live more than a mile away from school, she said. But the Glens Falls district, with neighborhood elementary schools throughout the city, does not bus its students.

In early 2009, Little encouraged the districts to consider merging in order to save money.

 

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