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Proposed district merger defeated

Nov. 13, 2018 -- A proposal to merge the Arkport and Canaseraga school districts was defeated in a final, binding voter referendum. More than 65 percent of Arkport voters approved the proposed merger, with 344 casting ballots in favor and 180 voting against. Residents in Canaseraga, however, rejected the merger by a margin of 59.6 percent (285 no, 193 yes).

State law requires approval by a majority of voters in both districts for a merger to take effect.

“I’d like to thank those who took the time to vote today on this important issue,” Arkport Superintendent of Schools Jesse Harper said. “As the number of students in the region continues to shrink, we must and will explore every option available to us for educating our children in a cost-effective way. And Arkport will continue to do so.”

According to state law, if an annexation order is approved by one district and not the other, the order can be voted on a second time by the district in which it was defeated after one year has passed.

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