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Arkport voters approve referendum

Arkport voters approve proposed merger with
Canaseraga school district

On Oct. 9, voters in Arkport Central School District joined their counterparts in Canaseraga Central School District in approving a proposal to merge the two districts into one.

61 percent of Arkport voters approved the proposed merger, with 257 casting ballots in favor and 163 voting against it. Residents in Canaseraga approved the merger by a margin of 56 percent (125 no, 159 yes).

The results of today’s advisory referendum or “straw vote” now will be sent to the state education commissioner, who will authorize a final vote, known as a statutory, or binding, referendum, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 12. If voters approve the final referendum, the merger will become official and Arkport-Canaseraga Central School District would be created on July 1, 2019.

 “Today’s vote represents a giant first step toward a brighter future for the children of this region,” Arkport Superintendent of Schools Jesse Harper said. “I want to commend the residents of both Arkport and Canaseraga for their ability to see the bigger picture of providing educational opportunities for students in the current climate.”  

As envisioned, the merger would result in an elementary school in each existing building, grades nine through 12 at the Arkport school and grades 7 and 8 at Canaseraga.

Student enrollment in both Arkport and Canaseraga has steadily declined in recent years, and that trend is expected to continue. Since the 2012-13 school year, the number of Arkport students has decreased by more than 11 percent, and Canaseraga’s student population has dipped by about 4 percent. Dwindling enrollment impacts the amount of financial aid a district receives from the state, which can lead to hard decisions: Reduce the educational program or increase local property taxes? Both Arkport and Canaseraga have had to endure painful budget cuts over the past 10 to 15 years.

The possibility of combining Arkport and Canaseraga has been under discussion in both school districts since May 2016. The process of studying a possible merger officially began in December 2017, when an advisory committee comprised of volunteers from both districts began to meet with education consultants Castallo & Silky. The final merger study report was submitted to both boards of education in June, and the New York State Education Department approved the report the following month.