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S-GI board hears annexation presentation

SPRINGVILLE—The Springville and West Valley communities are compatible enough to have one school district, Dr. Bob Silky said at a pre-annexation study presentation Aug. 14. The presentation, which was given to the Springville-Griffith Institute Board of Education, outlined the results of a pre-annexation study commissioned by West Valley Central School.

The West Valley district is exploring possibilities for its future, including centralization – also known as a merger, annexation by another district or shared services. The study, completed by Castallo & Silky LLC Education Consultants, looked at the feasibility of West Valley entering into agreements with either Ellicottville Central School or S-GI. According to the results of the study, moving forward with S-GI makes the most financial sense.

“We think it’s feasible … there's nothing that would say it’s dead in the water,” Silky said.

If West Valley were annexed, it would cease to exist instead becoming part of the S-GI district. The State Education Department encourages fewer schools, and offers incentive aid to districts if they merge or annex. The incentive aid formula takes 40 percent of the two district’s 2006-07 combined operating aid and offers that as incentive operating aid. The first five years following the annexation operate under that 40 percent, four percent is removed each year for 9 years until the district no longer receives the incentive operating aid.

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Springville-Griffith Institute would receive $29,843,041 in incentive operating aid in the first 15 years.

“The money would be beneficial to both communities,” Silky said.

That incentive operating aid, Silky said, could also be used to keep the tax rate at the status quo. In 2017-18, S-GI had a $16.33 true tax rate; West Valley’s was $19.73. Of the incentive operating aid, 17 percent would be needed in the first year to remain at the S-GI tax rate of $16.33.

“That keeps you where you are … you may want to use 20, 30, 40 percent to lower everyone’s taxes,” Silky said.

The study also looked into the district’s debts, enrollment trends and predictions, geographical area and course offerings.

“We approached our study as a possible annexation of your district to West Valley,” Silky said. “We concluded the districts are very alike in a lot of ways and they vary in others.”

If an annexation were to take place, S-GI would be under no legal obligation to hire staff from West Valley. However, if they did hire WVCS staff, S-GI would need to “level up” the salaries to match what they were making. West Valley teachers would also carry over their seniority and tenure. Silky said often times the annexing district retains some defunct-district staff, like the superintendent, until they can find a new position. It’s estimated Springville would need to spend about 8.2 percent of its operating incentive aid in the first year to bring salaries to the same step.

“It feels irresponsible to the taxpayers to keep staff we don’t need just to be nice,” S-GI Superintendent Kimberly Moritz said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but then we’re paying that out.”

In the 2018-19 school year, West Valley is operating under a contingency budget, which means they can’t move forward with the next step in the process – a full annexation study.

“I think the conversation has to be about the kids … and what’s happening,” Board President Allison Duwe said.

A full copy of the presentation is online at SpringvilleGI.org.

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