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Fredonia, Brocton continue merger talks

If residents of both the Brocton and Fredonia school districts embrace merger, the earliest this could happen would be for the 2010-11 school year.

Paul Haley, a study consultant on the merger, passed along this assessment during a meeting of the consolidation study committee, which met in Brocton School on Saturday to continue discussions on the pros and cons of a merger.

The committee, which has met regularly for more than a month, will hold its final meeting at 8:30 a.m. March 14 in the Fredonia Middle School cafeteria. The meeting, which is open to the public, will feature an overview of all information to be included in the study draft document that will be submitted to the state education commissioner's office for review. A study report from the state commissioner will be presented to the boards of education of both districts, possibly by September.

The 40-member study committee is made up of 20 people representing each district. Four subcommittees are exploring the issues of curriculum, community, finance and staffing.

The Educational Service Council, made up of retired school business officials and superintendents, has been contracted to oversee the committee and write the study document.

Brocton Superintendent John Skahill announced that the two school districts received $49,500 for the study's creation -- a substantial savings for both districts. The money comes via a state Local Government Efficiency Program grant, written by Jen Osborne-Coy, the school's community relations professional.

The districts, should they merge, would receive $30 million in state merger reorganization aid over the course of 14 years. The combined board would be responsible for determining how that aid should be used.

Part of the merger aid, the finance subcommittee agreed, should be allocated to a reserve fund balance -- considered an essential "rainy day" fund to pay for unforeseen expenses and/or help keep tax rates from spiking.

Haley also noted that if the merger proceeds, all employee contracts would be renegotiated, except for the contract for the superintendent of the newly reconstituted district.

The Public Employee Relations Board would be involved in renegotiating contracts, Haley added.

Speaking of the impact of a merger on Brocton businesses, Haley said he wondered if there were any local business whose prime market target is the students and staff at the school.

Haley said community residents would have to weigh the impact of merger against the consequences on local taxpayers of not merging: decreasing student enrollment and increased program and staffing cost.

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