MERGER VOTE PART I

By DIANE R. CHODAN

OBSERVER Staff Writer

The question is understandable, clearly worded and requires a yes or no answer. “Should the Westfield Academy and Central School District and Brocton Central School District be joined together as a single district by centralization?”

On Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. residents from both districts can vote on this question in an advisory referendum, also called a straw vote. Westfield residents will vote in the main lobby of the high school. Brocton residents will vote in the foyer of the new gym.

Qualified voters are defined as someone who is: a citizen of the United States, a resident of the school district for at least 30 days prior to the vote and at least 18 years old.

While not allowing a merger at this point, a “no” vote by either district will stop the process. If the vote is positive in both districts, residents will go to the polls again in October to vote on a statutory or binding referendum. If that vote passes in both districts the merger is final and the new district comes into existence on July 1, 2014.

The two districts have been working since early in 2012 to get to this point.

Focus groups have provided input. An advisory committee consisting of members from each community has worked with the consultants. The consultants have rendered their opinion that the merger of the Brocton and Westfield schools would produce a more efficient school district and offer more to the students than either district could on its own. The school board has studied the consultants’ report, modified it to change the initial building configuration and approved taking the question to the residents.

Both districts have sent mailings to their residents. Merger information, including the full report, minutes from committee meetings and questions from the public meetings, is available through each district’s website.

Both districts have posted an identical document that is meant to help people understand the process and the benefits of a merger. The document argues that without the merger both districts will deplete their reserves and be unable to provide adequate programming, that a merger would produce efficiencies and allow the district to offer more programs to its students, that the districts are showing a population decline, and that a newly formed district would mean an increase in state aid received over the next 14 years.

Comments on this article may be sent to dchodan@observertoday.com