Districts in decline get state rewards

Despite some glowing reviews by the governor of the New York state budget for 2013-14, some conservatives were not as optimistic.

Downstate, both The Wall Street Journal and New York Post were critical of the state budget plan for its inclusion of an increased minimum wage, additional funding for Buffalo Bills’ stadium improvements and overall higher spending. But that is only part of the story.

What the approved budget also did was increase state aid to area schools, especially those districts that are hanging on by a thread and should no longer be in existence.

Locally, all school districts will always be in need of additional aid. Where the problem begins, however, is with the smaller schools that continue to be rewarded by the state despite lower enrollment numbers.

Here is a list of area districts and the percentage of state aid received compared to its 2013-14 overall budget projections, some of which are still being finalized in some districts:

Brocton – 73 percent.

Cassadaga Valley – 68 percent.

Chautauqua Lake – 35 percent.

Dunkirk – 59 percent.

Forestville – 55 percent.

Fredonia – 40 percent.

Gowanda – 65 percent.

Pine Valley – 68 percent.

Ripley – 72 percent.

Silver Creek – 60 percent.

Westfield – 68 percent.

What stands out in the list is Chautauqua Lake’s percentage, which is much lower than most schools in our area. A major reason for that percentage has to do with the wealth of the Chautauqua Lake district.

By state property evaluations, CLCS is the richest district in our county, thus it receives the least aid.

The poorer districts are the smaller ones, which is part of a double-edged sword. Part of the reason the districts are poor is because they support – through high taxes – a school district that is no longer viable in the 21st century.

Ripley has at least acknowledged its shortcomings by agreeing to tuition their seventh- to 12th-grade students to CLCS. The agreement allows Ripley secondary students to have more choices in their electives, athletics and extra-curricular activities.

Smaller schools that continue to maintain the status quo, but fail to work with other schools are short-changing their students despite the high price tag that comes with an education in this county. It’s an expensive and intentional mistake that keeps getting more expensive for those who live in the rural districts.

One of the questions from the audience during the county Chamber of Commerce’s state legislative breakfast to Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell was whether both would be seeking re-election in 2014.

To be quite honest, the topic caught both off guard. Young responded by saying it was too early to answer the question and Goodell responded by letting the audience know he had “changed the timing belt” on his vehicle for additional trips to Albany.

The question, however, may have been spurred by the early announcement of Tompkins County’s Martha Robertson, a Democrat, to run in the Congressional election, which is 19 months away.

That is far too early. Let’s hope Robertson’s announcement does not set a precedent for future votes.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to or call 366-3000, ext. 401.