Committee to consider closure of Cassadaga Elementary

SINCLAIRVILLE – The Cassadaga Board of Education decided Monday night to establish an advisory committee for the purpose of looking into the closure of the Cassadaga Elementary School.

The motion did not appear on the tentative agenda posted to the school’s website, although at the special meeting held on Dec. 17 to discuss utilization of the district’s building, Superintendent Scott Smith had said action might be taken at this board meeting.

The motion to establish the committee came after Smith’s latest report to the board. Smith reiterated the declining enrollment numbers, adding the latest information from outreach to pre-kindergarten students. According to his projections, the enrollment next year will be about 993 students, a decline of 56 students from the current enrollment of 1,049 students. This would bring the district under 1,000, a number board member William Carlson had cited as a bench mark for the state wanting districts to merge.

Smith also estimated that the enrollment at the Cassadaga Elementary School, if there were no changes, would decline by 30 students, leaving 65 students in a building designed for more than 500. He then said the board could consider closing the school; specifically establishing a committee to study the issue and make a recommendation to the board. He also recommended setting a time limit for the committee to do its work and holding a special meeting to consider the committee’s findings.

“Considering the busy schedule, March 4 at 7 p.m. might be a good time for a meeting. You might be able to vote (on the issue) at the March 14 board meeting,” Smith said.

Board member William Carlson made the motion and board member Jeanne Oag seconded it. To clarify the motion, Carlson repeated it, reading from notes to make certain that the recommended representation on the committee was clear. The committee would include: a parent with a child in the Cassadaga Elementary school, a parent with a child in the Sinclairville Elementary School, both elementary principals, the superintendent, a board of education member, the school business manager, an elementary teacher from each school, a middle school teacher, a representative from the Cassadaga Village Board, and other potentially interested community members.

Smith also spoke in favor of three resolutions concerning retirement incentives. Three different groups were offered incentives of $15,000: Cassadaga Valley Faculty Association members, School Related Professionals, and members of the Cassadaga Valley Administrators’ Association. Each incentive called for “payment as a non-elective contribution to a 403 (b) account following any such eligible member’s retirement from the district by June 30, 2013, subject to the terms and conditions of a Memorandum of Agreement (for each separate unit)”

Smith said, “Cassadaga Valley does not have a history of local incentives.” He then said the district faces a $1.6 million shortfall. He estimated a $512,971 savings from the incentive since higher paid staff would be replaced with lower paid staff.

“While we value our veteran employees and their contribution to the system we ask you to consider this,” Smith said.

In another resolution the Cassadaga Valley Central School Administrators’ contract was settled through the 2015-16 school years. For the current year there was no salary increase. The remaining three years would see a 1 percent increase in salary.

Work sessions for the budget were set for Feb. 11 and March 11, following the regularly scheduled board meetings, and March 25 at 7 p.m.

The public budget hearing to present the 2013-2014 budget is scheduled for May 13 immediately following the board of education meeting.

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