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Taxpayers Need To Forget 2017, Think About The Future

The difficult position Clymer Central School officials find themselves in stems partially from a failed 2017 merger attempt between the Panama and Clymer school districts.

Financial repercussions from the failed merger straw vote combined with a variety of other factors leaves the district struggling to raise enough money in taxes to pay for existing programs while living with promises made last year to taxpayers that the district would not propose a 2020-21 budget that exceeds the state’s tax cap.

The failed merger vote obscures Clymer’s role in what had been one of the most promising shared leadership teams in the state. Clymer and Panama were sharing not only a superintendent, but some department head positions as well through shared services agreements that allowed the districts to split costs and spend more money on school programs. Many of those shared services fell apart in the wake of the failed merger vote. That was a disappointing, though not surprising, outcome.

It’s nice to see, then, that time may be healing some wounds. Clymer has reached out to Panama and Sherman school district officials about merger possibilities between the three districts. While Sherman and Panama officials haven’t publicly jumped at another merger discussion, we hope the three districts are able to begin rebuilding the shared services that once existed between Panama and Clymer. Adding Sherman into the mix can only benefit all three small districts.

We commend Ed Mulkearn, Clymer Central School board president, for pursuing a merger. At some point, rural schools are likely going to have to merge if they want to provide the type of education their students deserve at a cost local taxpayers can bear. A merger, though, will certainly take too long to help Clymer in the short term. We hope all three school boards and their superintendents are open, during this budget season, to the type of staff and program sharing that once made Panama and Clymer a model for rural school shared services. That means these talks will need to evolve beyond letters into face-to-face meetings, soon. Clymer and Sherman officials have met in person. It’s time to begin holding serious meetings between the three districts, though, so that potential savings can be part of the 2020-21 budget.

Taxpayers in all three districts should request that these meetings start happening. It’s time to forget 2017 and start thinking about the future.

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