DANSVILLE — The pre-merger study performed to determine if a Dansville-Keshequa merger would be beneficial for both districts revealed its results to a full house of parents, students and community members from the two districts.
The major takeaway from the Thursday night presentation was there are "pluses and minuses" to merging the two districts according to educational consultant Alan Pole, who performed the study with William Silky.
"We don’t see anything that we would make us say no to a full merger study," Silky said. "But there are things that you should take into consideration."
Silky and Pole explained both districts are similar in most areas with the three major exceptions being the grade configuration, teacher salaries and the districts tax rates for 2013-14.
The Dansville district has a configuration of prekindergarten through second grade in the primary building, grades three to six in the elementary school and grades seven through 12 in the high school. Keshequa, on the other hand, has prekindergarten through fifth grade in an elementary school, six through eight in the middle school and nine through 12 in the high school.
Silky explained that in other merger studies he’s participated in, typically, the students would stay in their respective buildings until the sixth grade. When they enter sixth grade they would usually be integrated.
The pre-merger study showed that on average, Keshequa teachers’ salaries are higher than Dansville teachers’. Pole explained that most districts that merge will level-up teacher salaries to even the score.
If the districts choose to level-up the teacher salaries, they are looking at a price tag of $1,264,000 plus the 26 percent increase for related benefits would be a total of $1,592,640.
Another factor that was brought up in the meeting was the difference in school tax for both communities. Keshequa’s tax rate is $20.14 for the 2013-14 school year, while Dansville’s tax rate falls at $17.16.
In order for the Keshequa district to have the same school tax rate as Dansville, 16.7 percent of the incentive operating aid from the state would have to be allocated for reaching the needed levy.
The IOA, which is given by the state to push districts to merge, would be 40 percent of the combined operating aid for the first five years of the merge. After that, it would decrease for the following ten years. The total IOA over the first 15 years of the merger is estimated at $38,085,595.
The positives would include the opportunity for more classes to be offered for students, help slow down the decline of enrollment and add extra curriculars and athletics.
Parents and students voiced their concern with the amount of time students will have to spend on the busses and the integration of both districts. Silky and Pole agreed that is a concern but assured everyone those factors, and more, would be looked into more if the boards decided to go forward with a full merger study.
They also explained that the merger has to pass a community vote in both districts in order for it to happen.
In the meantime, both the Dansville and the Keshequa Boards of Education have to decide if they’re going to move forward with the full merger study.