By Rob Potter
ROSCOE After a special meeting Monday night, it’s clear that a majority of Roscoe community members are not interested in considering a merger with neighboring Livingston Manor.
Asked to complete a brief survey, more than 70 percent of the district residents indicated their opposition to even conducting a merger study. This comes about a month after Livingston Manor residents strongly supported the study.
So what exactly was presented and said Monday night?
Roscoe Superintendent John Evans gave a power point presentation which described how the Roscoe and Livingston Manor Central School districts had a shared athletics program this past fall. By doing so, they were able to offer modified, junior varsity and varsity football and girls’ soccer teams and a boys’ varsity cross country team. The total cost to operate the fall sports program was $39,539.80. Compared to the cost of each district paying for its own fall athletics program, that figure was a savings of $15,821.35 for Roscoe and $26,983.93 for Livingston Manor.
The presentation also noted that last spring, the Manor and Roscoe boards of education publicly voted to enter into a five-year plan to merge all athletic programs between the districts. But prior to the start of this winter season, the Manor Board of Education decided to unmerge with Roscoe for winter sports.
The presentation included excerpts from an e-mail Evans received from LMCS Superintendent Deborah Fox on Jan. 5. In the e-mail, Fox wrote that “it doesn’t seem sensible for our district to continue with the athletic merger when the issues that are stumbling blocks seem to be insurmountable… Our board is not willing to continue paying for two coaches as this is not fiscally defensible in this economic climate when we have made substantial reductions in positions. Since you state the RCS board is not interested in a merger study (the next logical step to any long-term sharing), I believe our board may not be interested in continuing the athletic merger at this time.”
Following the presentation, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions of Evans and the Roscoe board members and/or make comments. Several people asked questions about situations which might arise if the two schools eventually merged. Those questions included whether any school buildings would end up becoming vacant as has occurred in the Sullivan West Central School District, whether school taxes would increase, how many board members would be from the two former districts and whether any teachers would be left unemployed.
Some people who spoke referred to the e-mail sent by Fox and said that they felt Roscoe could do fine fielding its own sports teams.
“If Manor feels that they can hold sports over our head, I think we should let them,” said Samantha Molinari, who is the RCS Student Government Association President. “I would say that most of the time, even 99 percent of the time, when our students have wanted to compete on athletic teams, our school has found a way for them to participate.”
Janice Phillips, a RCS teacher, is among those community members who are not in favor of a merger.
“I don’t think there are enough benefits in a merger,” she said. “I thank the Roscoe board of education members for all of their hard work on this matter. I don’t think it would be a good idea to merge.”
George Kinney offered a different opinion.
“I think it would be good to go ahead with a merger study,” he commented. “I don’t think there is any harm in learning more about it.”
When people arrived for the meeting, they were asked to take a Community Feedback Survey, fill it out and return it to RCS officials. One of the questions on the survey asked community members if they feel the Roscoe and Livingston Manor schools should apply for a Department of State and Local Government Efficiency Grant to explore merging the two schools. Another question inquired if the community members feel that the two schools should continue to explore ways to share sports and other services on their own without a formal study.
“A merger study would cost $50,000,” Evans said. “But we could apply for a state grant which would pay for about 90 percent of that cost.”
He reminded the audience that having a merger study does not mean that a merger would be imminent.
“There would be two votes in each district before a merger,” Evans explained. “Each district would have to vote for a merger twice before it became official.”
Right now it appears there will be no votes and no future consideration of a merger.