The Proposed Centralization of Brocton Central School District & Westfield Academy and Central School District Advisory Referendum will be held on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 from noon to 8 p.m. Residents vote in their respective communities.
If you have questions on the consolidation process please call Dave Davison 326-2151 or John Hertlein 792-9121
Understanding the Proposed Merger….
On Tuesday, June 18, 2013, residents of the Brocton and Westfield school districts will participate in the first of two possible votes on a proposal asking whether the two districts should merge into a single district. The first vote is a non-binding, advisory referendum – also called a “straw vote.” If a majority of voters in each school district approves the advisory referendum, then a binding referendum would take place in October, 2013. If a majority of voters in each district approves the binding referendum, the new merged district would begin operating on July 1, 2014.
Why consider a merger?
Like most New York State public schools, the Brocton and Westfield school districts are quickly running out of money. The loss of state aid, rising cost of operations and an overburdened local property tax base are forcing the districts to deplete their reserve and fund balances (savings). The districts will have to make additional cuts to both academic and extra-curricular programs in the future in order to meet budget requirements. With these financial concerns, the districts will not be able to provide the depth and breadth of programming that our students will need to be prepared for college and a new global work place. The Boards of Education of both districts concluded that a merged district would preserve and enhance our students’ educational opportunities and at the same time protect our residents from major property tax increases. A merger is not a magic solution. There still would be challenges to overcome. However with approximately 25 million dollars in Operational Incentive Aid (OIA) over the next 14 years and the recommended efficiencies if the merger is approved, both students and taxpayers would see educational and financial benefits.
During the 2012-2013 school year, the Brocton and Westfield school districts hired consultants who produced a study presenting a “roadmap” leading to a merged district. The study states the merged district would produce more efficiencies and could offer more to its students than either district could on its own.
The numbers tell the story…
Both districts predict significant budget shortfalls in the very near future. Predictions for the 2014-2015 school year show a $241,251 gap between expected revenues and expenditures for the Westfield district and $132,052 gap for the Brocton district. Finances look even worse for the 2015-2016 school year with Westfield and Brocton both projecting an approximate $400,000 budget gap. In the meantime, both districts have already made cuts to staff and programs. Brocton has eliminated 22.5 positions while Westfield has eliminated 11 positions just in the last four years. With New York State’s new property tax cap law, the districts are limited in their ability to raise the tax levy to cover these projected budget gaps. Both districts will struggle to raise the necessary funds to support even a basic educational program, let alone continue to maintain much needed educational opportunities for our students.
Besides a dismal financial picture, both districts have seen a decline in student enrollments. Westfield has lost 84 students and Brocton has seen a reduction of 100 students over the last five years. The consolidation study shows further enrollment declines for the next nine years. Declining enrollment creates not only less state aid but greater challenges to offer the necessary academic courses that our students need to compete in this new global environment. Extra-curricular and athletic programs also suffer with declining enrollments.
A merger would mean more state aid and more educational opportunities for students…
A merger of the two districts would allow local schools to operate more efficiently and result in the merged district receiving a significant increase in state funding through
Operational Incentive Aid (OIA). If the two districts merge, the new district would receive nearly $25 million in additional aid from the state over the next 14 years of operation. This infusion of merger aid would ease the projected budget gaps of the
individual school districts and provide improved educational opportunities for all students. The new aid would also be used to stabilize taxes. The consolidation study recommends using 40% of the Operational Incentive Aid to fill budget gaps and offset property taxes. This would be approximately $1,044,856 for the first five years of the consolidation, which would help lower or stabilize property taxes in a new district. The study also recommends further cost savings, created by efficiencies, in the consolidated district.
On May 21st, the boards of education of both districts voted to approve and support the continuation of the merger process for the two districts. Residents will go to the polls on Tuesday, June 18th to vote in an advisory referendum, or “straw vote” to assess the level of support within the districts for the proposed consolidation. If the advisory referendum passes in both districts, residents will go to the polls in October, 2013 to vote on a statutory or binding referendum. If the statutory referendum passes in both districts, the merger becomes final and the new district begins operation on July 1, 2014.
It’s now up to the public to decide.