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BOARD DECLINES TO HELP FUND COUNTY STUDY

The Williamsville School Board on Tuesday declined a request by the Erie County Association of School Boards to help fund a study of how school districts in the county save money by sharing services.

In the end, money, or the lack of it, was a factor. Williamsville School Board members said that while they were committed to the concept, they thought that channeling any of the district's funds toward the study would not be appropriate, given its current fiscal constraints.

The Association of School Boards, of which Williamsville is a member, has been seeking funding for the study from local foundations. The hitch, however, is that prospective sources, such as the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, want local school districts to provide some funds of their own as a show of support for the study.

"The problem we are concerned with is that a study provided at no cost to school districts, essentially free, will not command the respect that will get the recommendations (that come out of the study) evaluated and possibly adopted," a trustee for the foundation wrote in a letter to Jacqueline J. Paone, executive director of the Erie County Association of School Boards.

Some Williamsville board members balked, saying that when the initiative was conceived, they were assured that school districts would not be asked to contribute toward funding of the study.

"I don't think there are many districts that can afford to take money out of their budgets and put them toward a study," said board member Anne Rohrer.

The Association of School Boards has requested that the local schools boards each commit half of the annual dues they pay to the association to help fund the study. For Williamsville, that would have amounted to $3,494.

Board members Sharon Harris-Ewing and William Freeman both recommended that the district's contribution toward the cost of the study be reduced to $1,000. It failed to pass muster with a majority of the board, however.

The board split, 4-4, on a vote that would have told the association that while the Williamsville School District believed in the study, it just did not have the money to make a financial commitment. Instead, the School Board, in a 6-2 vote, approved a resolution that said the district is committed to collaboration with other school districts, but is unwilling to help fund the study because it would be an inappropriate use of scarce resources.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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