The debate regarding the proposed Ilion-Mohawk school merger continued, as supporters and detractors attended an open forum at Jarvis Junior-Senior High School, in Mohawk.

Community members asked questions about the merger, including incentive aid amounts, possible layoffs and teaching plans.

The superintendents of Ilion and Mohawk, Cosimo Tangorra and Eugene Beirne, say the new district would receive $4.44 million dollars in reorganization incentive aid annually for five years, then the number would decrease until 2027. At that point, the district would be left to cover its own costs and programs.

"It's going to save taxpayers a bit of money," Beirne said. "But, with everything else, there are benefits and there are drawbacks."

Besides discussing reorganization aid, both superintendents stressed there would be no layoffs in the first year of reorganization, though no promises could be made after that. As of now, the plan is to allow teachers with duplicate classes to offer other courses, providing students with more program options.

At times during the forum, the mood in the audience was less than favorable, and at one point, heated between citizens and presenters.

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

When the situation began to grow tense, Mohawk resident Tom Harter and his wife, Mary, decided to leave. He says he plans to vote "no" to the merger, citing fiscal problems.

"They're taking the initiative to gather more money because they have the opportunity to," Harter said. "I think they need to manage what they have."

He also says a lot of people in opposition to the merger simply don't vote.

"I don't like the way a lot of people are today... they don't care," Harter said. "They feel that the government is going to do what they want to do anyway, or they don't have enough education or desire to care enough to go out and vote. If you don't like something, don't sit home and stew about it. Get up and go vote 'no.'"

Kaylee Sommer, 15, is a sophomore attending school in Mohawk. She disagrees with a lot of the comments made by those opposed to the reorganization.

"We're all suffering," Sommer said. "I have my senior friends that want the merger to go through. I have 18 year-olds that are voting it through just so we can have a better education."

Sommer, who has plans to attend Syracuse University, added that additional programs will allow her to achieve more.

"With the merger, I will have more classes offered to me... than if it fails," Sommer said. "The extra classes will give me a fighting chance in order to make it into a good college. The adults need to put aside their opinions and listen to the facts so students like me can receive more opportunities to further my education."

With only two weeks left until voters hit the polls, Beirne said he hopes the merger can move forward.

"I really can't predict," Beirne said. "I don't know how many times now 60 percent of the people in Mohawk and Ilion have voted for a merger. So, we think the numbers are there, but time will tell."

A similar public forum will be held January 31st at the Ilion High School, where the two superintendents will present their findings again.

The merger vote will take place on February 12th. If passed, the new district could begin operating July 1st.