City schools and those in the two adjoining suburban districts would need no tax increases for the next 10 to 15 years if they combined their services to take full advantage of the financial incentives of a merger, according to School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto.
Granto, a proponent of the cost savings that could be achieved through school mergers, pointed out that substantial amounts of state financial aid are available to newly merged districts in addition to the obvious economies of scale through the elimination of duplication.
He was among about 20 representatives of the public school systems in Niagara Falls, Niagara-Wheatfield and Lewiston-Porter who reached a consensus Tuesday to form a task force to study the possibilities of consolidating services and eliminating duplication.
The task force is to include representatives of each of the three districts, members of the labor unions representing employees of the districts, and representatives of the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
Tuesday's exploratory meeting was arranged by the Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, which is pushing for consolidation at all levels of government to reduce the tax burden on local businesses.
Fred Caso, a vice president of the Chamber, said the task force would look for "areas of cooperation or collaboration." Members of the task force have yet to be appointed.
Some participants in Tuesday's meeting warned that it might be difficult to promote an actual merger of the school districts, but that some consolidation of administrative services might be desirable. For example, they said, some residents would resist losing the separate identities of their school districts and would oppose combining their sports teams into one team if an actual merger of the student bodies were to be proposed.
The majority leaned away from a merger, and toward a possible sharing of some staff functions and a centralized purchasing department.
Lewiston-Porter Superintendent Walter S. Polka said: "We're looking for new and creative ways to solve problems and to reduce costs."
It was suggested that it would be economical to consolidate or privatize some services, such as food and transportation.