Annex vote set in Colonie

Voters of North Colonie Central School and Maplewood-Colonie Common School districts will decide on the merger of the two districts in an Oct. 11 vote.

After a strong show of support in a non-binding vote in May, the boards of education of both districts agreed to set the binding vote.

If passed, the merger will go into effect July 1, 2008, making Maplewood, a kindergarten-through-eighth grade school, North Colonie's seventh elementary school.

More than 100 years old, the Maplewood school has run into hard times lately as year after year tax increases, some as high as 22 percent, hit hamlet homeowners and businesses. Talks of a possible merger of the school are nothing new, but last year, Maplewood officials felt it was time to develop a real strategy to hold on to its historic school and take some weight of the taxpayers.

Officials received a go-ahead of sorts after May's budget vote showed a strong turnout in favor of the merger.

In this year's school budget vote, Maplewood saw at least six times the typical voter turnout in the past. Residents voted 190-to-27 in favor of moving on the annexation. In North Colonie, voters approved the annexation 1,760 votes to 710.

This (October's vote) is just a follow up to what occurred in May. Later on in August or September, we will have some additional public meetings, said Jerome Steele, Maplewood principal, superintendent and business manager.

A 26-member committee, formed of North Colonie and Maplewood district staff, students and residents, put together a feasibility of the annexation.

Much of that study guided voter reaction in the May vote. The additional public meetings to occur in both districts will follow up on that information leading up to the final vote, said Steele.

"To date, we are very pleased with the strong community support of this proposed annexation, and we believe it is in our mutual best interests to take the next step toward a binding vote," said Thomas Rybaltowski, assistant superintendent for business at North Colonie, in a written statement.

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