WEST VALLEY – An annexation of West Valley Central School by Springville-Griffith Institute makes the most financial sense, according to a June 21 pre-annexation study presentation. Financially, the two districts compliment each other, the presentation outlined.
Castallo & Silky Education Consultants were hired by WVCS to conduct a pre-annexation study in October 2017. The company said S-GI would be the best fit if both districts were on board with an annexation, and noted an annexation with Ellicottville Central School doesn’t make financial sense.
“I think we reached a conclusion that if the communities, yours and Springville, decide you want to move forward, we have enough information to say that it probably makes sense to at least think about it,” William Silky, of Castallo & Silky Education Consultants, said. “As opposed to your district and Ellicottville … we just believe from a financial perspective … that [Ellicottville] just doesn’t make sense.”
Early in the pre-annexation study, ECS was only willing to participate in the study if they were reimbursed for any costs from gathering information. By looking solely at the financial aspects of the ECS district Castallo & Silky were able to acquire, an annexation would not be in the best interest of WVCS.
When a district is annexed, the state provides the new district with incentive aid. With the true tax rate for West Valley at $19.73 per thousand and $8.48 in Ellicottville, incentive aid needed to balance the rates would be $1.71 million, 181 percent of the funds estimated to come from the state.
“Even if there was an interest on the part of them, it just would not work,” Silky said.
The tax rate in Springville is $16.33 per thousand, a difference of $2.70 per thousand from West Valley, only 17 percent of the incentive aid would be needed to balance the tax rates.
Throughout the presentation, Castallo & Silky outlined other pieces of information from WVCS and S-GI including athletics, salaries, debts, courses offered to students and enrollment. With the current enrollment of WVCS 215 students and 1,698 at S-GI, Silky outlined projected enrollment figures through 2024, with both districts seeing a decrease in students.
After the presentation, residents asked questions about the study and voiced their opinions on the future of the district. With questions about teaching positions, whether the building were to be kept open and projected class sizes, those in attendance shared what they thought on both sides of the issue.
“Everything that I saw that you presented to me, overwhelmingly looked like a merger was a good idea for this school district,” resident Art Munson said. “I know we have a lot of people who work here, I would hate to see anyone lose their jobs … I think it’s time we did something.”
Other residents pointed out the difference in size between S-GI and WVCS.
“Springville is a big district and they can give more, but our school teachers know each and every one of their students by name … these teachers genuinely care about their students,” Pam Morton said. “We are a small school, but we have small classes, if a child starts to fall behind these teachers will do whatever is necessary to make sure that child succeeds.”
Outlining possible advantages and disadvantages of an annexation, Silky said an annexation could lessen the impact of declining enrollments, increase the probability of program reductions, increase course offerings for students, add more extra curricular activities and could lead to lower or stabilized property taxes. On the other hand, it can lead to more competition with sports teams, students might have to ride on buses longer with the larger geographical district and some incentive aid would be needed to level up teacher salaries.
If WVCS and another district were interested in moving forward, a full annexation study would need to be completed and an advisory committee would need to be created to help in the process. Both boards of education would vote on whether to continue the process before a straw vote in each community. If the straw votes pass, a third statutory referendum vote is held and if it passes in both districts, the annexation would be completed.
Along with an annexation, Castallo & Silky recommended the school could look at tuitioning out students or sharing services if the district decides not to go with the full annexation.
But because the 2018-19 budget was voted down twice and the district was forced to approve a contingency budget, WVCS would not be able to move forward with a full annexation study this year. While the district can’t take action on an annexation study, the board will continue to look at all its options and start making a plan on the next steps for WVCS.
“We are a little stymied right now because the board cannot move forward on commissioning another study or a fuller study under the terms of a contingency budget,” board president Steve Kowalski said. “We need to move forward as a board, as an administration, as a district to give the best to all these people.”
Copies of the pre-annexation study will be available in the WVCS office.