WEST VALLEY — The West Valley Central School regular board meeting on Feb. 10 began with the board reviewing the preliminary capital improvement plans for the 2014-2015 school year. The plans are an ongoing process between the board and Young and Wright Architectural firm, based out of Buffalo. After a preliminary meeting in December, Jerry Wright asked the board to rank all of the proposed projects on a scale of one to five. One being a wishlist item, five being a must-have in the plan.
Although no specific project was spoken about in depth, the board discussed the best plan of action for moving the process along. After a suggestion from School District Business Official Ann O’Brien, the board deemed it best to know the maximum spending without raising property taxes, before they moved further with the plan. Wright suggested that his plan should be close to the spending limit.
“This is nuts and bolts, brick and mortar type stuff,” said Wright. “There’s no additions, there’s no major renovations. It’s repairing the major problems.”
Later, the board discussed the possibility of instating a veteran property tax reduction for the school district. That program is a growing tax break among school districts across the country, providing United States military veterans with a reduced property tax rate based on their veteran status.
The idea to bring the tax break to the West Valley school district was brought up at a previous meeting, and after research, O’Brien found a number of different plans for board members to consider. The maximum payment plan would raise taxes for non-veterans 34 cents per thousand.
Board members had mixed feelings about the way community members may perceive the tax reduction if they were to implement it in West Valley, considering that non-veteran taxpayers would be picking up the money lost through the reduction for veterans.
Board member Teaseleman Jackson-McCarty, urged that the reduction should not be perceived as just a tax break for some in the community, but as a way to bring families into the district.
“I’ve talked to several people in the public, and yes, they view it as a tax break for veterans, but they also view it as a tax incentive to bring younger people into the area, potentially bringing more students to the district,” said Jackson-McCarty.
The BOE is required to hold a public meeting before it can approve the tax reduction. The district will likely hold a straw poll to gauge public opinion, at the district budget vote later this year, and decide for it to be applied to the 2015-2016 budget.
The board also asked district bus mechanic Bob Harrington to attend the meeting, to discuss his opinions on purchasing a new school bus. Harrington suggested that the district should plan on purchasing a larger 65-seat school bus, instead of a less expensive 29-seat bus. The bus it will be replacing is a larger format bus that had been purchased in 2002. Harrington stated that, although the initial cost for a smaller bus is lower; $65,000, compared to $105,000; the smaller buses require more maintenance, and the life span is much shorter then a 65-seat vehicle.
Most importantly, Harrington pointed out, is the safety of the children, the No. 1 thing to remember when purchasing a school bus.
“In 2004, I was hit head-on by a car in a brand new [65-seat] bus. I had ten students on board and they barley knew what happened,” said Harrington,
“Now, if that would have happened with a small bus, the weight is more equal to a personally owned vehicle, It would have been different. The bigger bus absorbs more energy, and it sits higher. If anything were to hit [the bus], it would protect our kids.”
The board will consider what was presented to them and make a decision for the bus, in a future meeting.
The next WVCS meeting is on March 10 in the school library at 7:30 p.m.