By Greg Fox
BROCTON - Thirteen days remain until the statutory merger vote for Brocton Central School and Westfield Academy and Central School on Oct. 9 and both boards are in the final push to get as much information out to the public as possible before then.
During Wednesday's Brocton Board of Education meeting, Superintendent John Hertlein and Business Executive Betty DeLand guided the audience through a 32-slide PowerPoint presentation on what Brocton and Westfield can expect with a merger.
The Westfield Board of Education presented the same PowerPoint during its meeting on Monday.
"Centralization directs approximately $25 million in new funding toward the Brocton and Westfield communities ... over 14 years," one of the slides stated.
"That is the additional money that we will get on top of New York state aid already," Hertlein said. "A percentage will be put away, so that after those 14 years are gone, there will be money to continue the programs we run. We don't want to be a larger poor district. We need to guarantee this district will run (after then)."
For the first five years of the 77-square mile, merged district, an annual incentive grant of $2.61 million will be disbursed to the community. That number will decrease by four percent for each remaining year afterward.
Forty percent of the aid will be used to reduce taxes, 35 percent will go toward educational programs and 25 percent will be put into the reserve funds.
Solely combining both budgets without any efficiencies (meaning no staff cutting or consolidation), as well as factoring in the incentive aid, the full-value tax rate of the new district would be $17.26 for the 2014-2015 school year.
"Westfield's savings would not be quite as much of a savings as it would be to Brocton because over 54 percent of Brocton's assessed value is tax exempt. So, Westfield's assessed value is considerably more than Brocton's. They will see a savings, though," DeLand said.
Breaking the tax rate down by town using the actual tax rates from the 2012-2013 school year, as well as including incentive aid, Pomfret would save $26.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, Stockton would save $5.33, Portland would save either $9.88 for the portion in Brocton's school district or $.19 for the portion in Westfield's, Ripley would save $.10 and the town of Westfield would save $.12. This is considering the current equalization rates, as well.
"Currently, each district brings debt to the centralization," the PowerPoint stated. "The centralized district would benefit from a facilities aid ratio of 97.9 percent, which increases the (building) aid ratio on existing Westfield debt service. The debt service that both districts bring to a merged district would have no negative impact on taxes."
In other words, Westfield's current building aid ratio of 90.7 percent will increase to Brocton's ratio of 97.9 percent if the merger goes through.
"That would just help and benefit any new project that we do," DeLand said.
DeLand also made it clear that although Brocton has much more debt than Westfield, the building aid it will be receiving will dwindle that amount down over time.
"In our estimated aid ... in six years ... we're going to be getting a whole bunch more state aid and we're not going to have payments (on a capital project)," she said. "Westfield's already at that point where they're actually receiving more aid than they're paying out in their debt service and Brocton will be in that similar situation in six years. So, between merger incentive money and savings on the debt service, we're definitely getting more aid than we're dishing out."
Hertlein also briefly spoke on transportation, saying no bus run will be greater than 60 minutes and most would be less than 45 minutes in a merged district, according to a new transportation policy.
To vote, eligible district residents must be over 18 years old and must have lived within their corresponding district 30 days prior to Oct. 9. Brocton residents may vote in the gym lobby at Brocton and Westfield residents may vote in the main lobby at Westfield from 12 to 8 p.m.
Voters will also be able to decide the size of the newly merged board of education, as well as term limits for the seats.
The Brocton Board voted to move its Oct. 2 meeting to Oct. 10. The Oct. 16 meeting was also moved to Oct. 23.