Despite sitting on opposite sides of the Washington-Saratoga County border, the Fort Edward and South Glens Falls school districts are co-funding a pre-merger study to explore the potential impact of a merger.
"There is no predetermined outcome the board is looking for," said Daniel Ward, the superintendent of the Fort Edward Union Free School District. "It is just a sincere effort to get all of the information possible."
Ward asked South Glens Falls to participate in the study, which begins this winter. Since taking the job three years ago, his school has seen the amount of tax revenue it receives from the former General Electric dewatering facility, plummet by $1,316,208.
Owned by WCC — which used to lease the land to G.E. — the property has sat vacant since the Hudson River dredging project ended.
"[WCC] filed tax grievances against the district and against the town for its assessment, and their assessment has been reduced by over $64 million,” Ward said. “That was over 40 percent of the entire community’s assessed value.”
Ward is not alone in his sentiments.
“When students right next to us are in need, we want to do everything we can to support them," said South Glens Falls Central School District Superintendent Kristine Orr.
To make up for the lost revenue, Fort Edward has cut the equivalent of five positions, but Ward says none have been teachers. The study will explore possible savings if South Glens Falls were to annex its smaller neighbor.
“There are formulas out of New York State from 2006 and 2007 that could show potential gains financially, if the conditions were right,” Orr said.
The study will also examine the impact on student programs, staffing, and building use.
"We always have to focus on students for anything we do," Orr said.
When asked about the early response from the district's parents and faculty, Ward said there was "uneasiness."
“We’ve also had several people contact the district and say they are glad we are collecting the information now," Ward said.
Results are expected in June. If the two school boards opt to move forward, a more in-depth study would be required, followed by public votes in both communities.
“The small school experience is a great one here, we just have to make sure that we are providing a great experience whether it be as a small school, for a different configuration for our kids, no matter what,” Ward said.