Nothing Wrong With Exploring Options

Voting “yes” Tuesday in a straw vote for the consolidation of Brocton and Westfield schools will not change a thing. All residents in both districts will be doing – with that “yes” vote – is approving to continue a process of exploring how neighboring districts with similar characteristics can work together as one in the future.

There is absolutely no reason to oppose that concept.

Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. and while attendance at public hearings has been sparse, discussion publicly on the issue has been almost too quiet. Here is what we know about the Brocton Central School district and Westfield Academy and Central Schools at this time:

Both districts have dedicated staff members who provide an excellent education.

The districts have already successfully participated as one on sports teams.

Student enrollments have declined over the past two decades.

Both districts have cut staffing and academic and extracurricular programs.

Both school boards, endorsed by each community, approved moving forward with a study. That study recommended a merger.

We also know the current configuration of small, separate districts – not only in this case, but throughout the county and Western New York – is unsustainable.

In recent letters to the editor in the Westfield Republican and Dunkirk OBSERVER, a school board member and two community members have voiced their opinions on why voting “yes” is vital to the future of our region and the students. The three pieces state both districts have already made a number of cuts that lessen the educational opportunities and offerings for students. And, those letters also note, school boards cannot continue to look at raising taxes as a solution, especially when New York state already has a tax cap in place.

Taxes, according to the study, will be reduced if the merger does happen down the road. As noted in the thorough report, both communities will see savings in the tax rates. While the savings in Westfield is not as substantial as Brocton, it is still a savings – not an increase. That is an important point to make, especially when non-residents consider locating a business or moving to a region.

Strong schools and lower taxes bring outside investment to make a community stronger. Voting “yes” is a step in that direction.