The Galway Central School District has rejected an offer to discuss merging with the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District.
Cheryl Smith, president of Galway’s Board of Education, sent a letter Thursday to parents, school faculty and staff and members of the community outlining the board’s reasons against merging with Broadalbin-Perth.
“While the Galway Board of Education certainly recognizes the concerns raised by the Broadalbin board [of education] about the long-term stability of education finance, and their desire to provide additional options to the students they serve, merger is not an avenue that the Galway Board of Education wishes to explore at this time,” Smith wrote.
“At this time, the Galway board believes that our attention can best be used to advocate for real solutions, which would allow districts such as Galway to maintain our identity, while ensuring that we have the necessary resources to provide a cost-effective high-quality education to the students we serve.”
Michele Kelley, spokeswoman for the Broadalbin-Perth district, said officials there sent a letter to Galway last week.
“We are considering a merger for the same reason every school district is looking at a merger, for the long-term financial viability of the school district,” she said. “The question is how long before we get to our own fiscal cliff. Most districts have three to five years left, provided nothing changes at the state level.”
In her letter, Smith gave the following reasons for discounting a merger with Broadalbin-Perth:
• Mergers have not proven to provide long-term fiscal savings. She said that while a newly formed district may be eligible to receive additional state aid for a period of time, when the merger aid is eliminated, merged districts often find they end up in the same or worse fiscal situations as they encountered prior to the merger.
• Galway’s Board of Education is recruiting a new superintendent of schools. Smith said the board wants a leader who will help move the district toward accomplishing goals for academic performance and long-term fiscal stability and that the board is committed to this effort.
• The Galway board is working with the administration to conduct a multiyear analysis of the district’s finances. Smith said Galway officials believe “the pathway to long-term fiscal stability is linked to the actions of our state leaders and our ability as a district to have better means to control certain mandated costs.”
A merger with Galway would have resulted in the new district receiving $36 million in additional state aid over 14 years. The earliest the new district could have formed would be 2015, Kelley said.
“With $36 million, we could stabilize the local tax rate, preserve programs, add more programs,” she said. “We are talking about a world-class education that under the current situation we can only dream of.”
In 1988, Broadalbin merged with Perth to create the current district. Kelley said the district benefitted greatly from that merger.
“We have one of the top graduation rates in the region and top-of-the-line school buildings, but like everyone else, we are facing” fiscal problems, she said.
With Galway’s rejection, Broadalbin-Perth’s options are limited to inquiries to the Mayfield Central School District and the Edinburg Common School District. Mayfield sought to merge with the Northville Central School District, but residents rejected the proposal in an advisory vote. Kelley said Edinburg does not have a high school.
She also said Broadalbin-Perth can’t merge with the Greater Amsterdam School District because a central school district cannot merge with a city district. This leaves Broadalbin-Perth with few options, Kelley said.
“We will continue to provide the best education we can with money we have available, and we will continue with advocacy efforts and try to get things fixed at the state level,” she said.