School merger timeline discussed
WESTFIELD – Residents in the Brocton and Westfield communities will have their chance to vote in favor or against the proposed centralization of the two schools. The vote will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Westfield Academy and Central School Superintendent David Davison announced Monday evening the State Department of Education Commissioner recently set the date. During the statutory vote, voters will have three propositions to voice their opinion on.
The first proposition, is to have the Brocton-Westfield Central School District, as described in the order of commissioner of education, be organized as a single central school district.
“You either vote yes or no,” Davison said.
The second proposition, if proposition 1 is approved, will determine how many board members will serve on a board of education. Voters will have the opportunity to choose a board of education consisting of five, seven or nine members. The final proposition will concern board of education member terms. Voters will choose a term of three, four or five years for potential board members. Both propositions 2 and 3 will be based on results of plurality. Davison also went over figures and what centralization would mean to students. Students would have age appropriate buildings and activities and additional educational opportunities.
“Creating a new district with about 1,250 students with help maintain educational and extracurricular activities and we’d be able to continue our existing relationship with the district’s families and students. We’d still have the relative small school setting with graduating classes under 100,” Davison said.
The process of centralization provides additional funding to both school communities. This funding is paid over a period of 14 years as operational incentive aid.
“The first five years of operational incentive aid is about $2.6 million. Then it declines by about 4 percent thereafter until year 15,” said Davison. “The study’s recommendation for the operational incentive aid is (to use) 40 percent to reduce taxes, 35 percent for educational programming and 25 percent for reserve funds.”
Those approximate numbers break down to $900,000 for education programming, $1,044,000 offset the tax levy and $653,000 to place in reserves for future use for each of the first five years of the merger. District Clerk Alan Holbrook gave a brief update on the tax rate savings for the multiple towns which would be involved in the new proposed centralized school, if it were to pass. The towns of Pomfret, Stockton, Portland, Ripley and Westfield will be included in the new 77 square mile boundaries.
By providing numbers found in the consolidation study, residents in Brocton school district will see a bigger savings as the numbers show with no efficiencies. Westfield residents, with no efficiencies, will save cents on their tax rate. Marie Edwards, board member, told audience members that these numbers were based on if the schools were to run the district the same.
“… Those figures are with no efficiencies. That’s if we ran both schools exactly as we ran them now and did absolutely nothing. That’s not the plan so there would be more savings if we realize some efficiency,” she said.
Resident Robert Neratko, during the public comment portion of the meeting, said there are no guarantees in a consolidation. He cited the district joining a central business office in the past and spent an additional $83,000 during a three-year term.
“We’re talking about a combined close to $30 million budget in regard to the Brocton-Westfield centralization. If we can be misled by $83,000 over a three-year term … where might we be with consolidation if there are no guarantees,” he said.
If the district were to merge, all capital debt incurred by the two districts would carry over and would not have an impact on tax payers. Since Brocton did not have an approved child safety plan, a $90,000 adjustment would be staggered over multiple years, the department of education said.
If the statutory vote were to pass in October, an election for the board of education will be held in December with the new board working on a budget to be voted upon in May. The district would take effect on July 1.
“The outcome of the October 9 statutory vote is about educating our kids,” Davison said.
Eligible U.S. residents who are over the age of 18 who reside in the school district may vote in the gym lobby at Brocton and in the main lobby at Westfield from 12 to 8 p.m. Another informational presentation will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. to be held in the Westfield Central School auditorium.
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