High payroll is board burden

Decisions by the Cassadaga Valley Board of Education before the start of this school year are why area residents often lose trust in leaders.

Last spring, the district made a tough and wise decision in closing the Cassadaga Elementary School. As with any public operation, shutting down a building is never easy or popular to do.

The board, in doing its due diligence, listened to concerns from those who wanted to keep the school open, but in the end responsibly decided closing the facility would help in reducing the high costs of running a large district.

In making the choice to close the school, the district also laid off six staff members – another unpopular decision with residents.

Dust had barely settled in July when it seemed as if the elected board members had forgotten the heartache and pain associated with closing a building and laying off colleagues.

It was at this session, financial rewards were handed out. Superintendent Scott Smith received a new contract with a wage increase to take his annual salary to $135,000. Also in the pay-hike parade was Debra McAvoy, district business manager, whose salary now tops $100,000 a year.

With little discussion or opposition the board, which had made tough decisions earlier, impetuously approved five pay raises – two of significance.

And here is one more reason why the raises are of importance. According to seethroughny.net, Cassadaga Valley is near the top of area school districts when it comes to wages for staff.

In 2012, 30 teachers and administrators in a staff of 265 – 13 percent – earned more than $90,000 annually. No other north county school comes close to that percentage. Dunkirk, with a staff of 663 employees, has 24 who earned more than $90,000 annually, but that is only 4 percent.

So maybe residents opposed to closing the school in the village had it right. Cassadaga Valley could have probably saved a building – and definitely some staffing – if it was not so overly generous with its payroll.