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updated: 12/12/2012 10:52 PM

Consultants: Don't merge Cary, Fox River Grove districts

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Consultants that have been exploring consolidating Cary Community Consolidated District 26 and Fox River Grove District 3 told a group of school and community members Wednesday they didn't recommend the move.

Both districts have elementary and middle schools feeding into the same high school and both are seeing decreasing student populations. But William Phillips, one of three working for Midwest School Consultants on the study, said there doesn't seem to be a major advantage to either district in coming together, whether that is to create a new district or to annex one into the other. And that is rare.

Out of 50 studies Phillips has been involved with, only four ended with recommendations against consolidation, he said.

In a presentation of their results, Phillips, Leonard Bogle and Scott Day showed how both districts have similarly high-quality facilities, curriculums and transportation arrangements. The differences are in teacher salaries and property tax rates.

The average annual teacher salary is $20,000 more in Cary than in Fox River Grove, and the property tax rate residents pay across the two communities is far higher in Fox River Grove -- $2.91 versus $4.22 per $100 equalized assessed valuation.

Cary board members said part of the reason for the difference in teacher salaries is recent layoffs that left higher-paid teachers who are closer to retirement and shifted the average up.

District 26 board member Jason Larry said the consolidation option may be a better one in a few years.

"Whatever we decide as two collective boards and administrations, I would encourage both bodies to not let this idea go," Larry said.

Fox River Grove Superintendent Tim Mahaffy said Cary school officials contacted the smaller district about looking into some sort of reorganization last winter. They jointly commissioned the $15,000 study in the spring, with the state chipping in $6,500.

Wednesday's meeting was considered a learning opportunity for everyone involved.

"Oftentimes in mergers in organizations, there can be efficiencies that are brought to the table," said District 26 board President Chris Spoerl. "The purpose of the study was to explore that possibility."

Moving forward, board members from each district must decide whether to continue the discussions in their respective groups and entertain the possibility of sharing certain services, if not actually merging.

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