Resident seeks vote on moving all Ripley students to Chautauqua Lake

Photo by David Prenatt Ripley resident Alan Waters presents a petition to the Ripley Board of Education.

RIPLEY — A town resident petitioned Ripley Central School District Board of Education members to hold a non-binding vote to determine if a majority of taxpayers would be in favor of sending all students, both elementary and secondary, to Chautauqua Lake.

Alan Waters, who owns a 155-acre farm east of the town, read a prepared statement to the board as a “direct appeal to feel for the public’s input for this.” After Ripley’s proposed 2018-19 budget was defeated by voters last May, Waters said he posted a sign on his property that read: “Tuition them all to Chautauqua School.”

Waters stated that the move to tuition Ripley secondary students has been a succes for the town. “This has worked out … with our high school students excelling and our school taxes being lowered because of it.”

However, Waters said, the town cannot support the proposed budget needed to keep the elementary school in Ripley. “When the town was prosperous, the funding of over a $9 million school budget for 305 students was doable. This figures out to be $30,102.16 per year even at the contingency budget.”

Waters petitioned the board to include the question on the ballot for the budget vote on May 21. “It can be done,” he said. “All we need is to have it on the ballot and we will find out if this town supports keeping a $9 million budget going.”

Several board members responded to Waters’ petition. Ripley Superintendent Bill Caldwell said he would contact the school attorney to see if the district could conduct an exit poll on the question. However, he said, the vote could not be attached to the budget vote because the state requires a lot of background information before such a vote could be made.

Board vice president Robert Bentley asked Waters to define whether he was asking for a binding referendum or a non-binding vote. “I’m more than willing to go down this road,” he said. “But there’s a lot of information that needs to be gathered to have a binding vote.”

Waters said he just wanted a vote for the district to determine public opinion on the matter. “All I know is that this town is getting smaller and smaller,” he said.

Board president Paul McCutcheon noted that even if Ripley did tuition all of its students to Chautauqua Lake, it would still have to maintain a school district, as well as administration and BOCES.

Caldwell said that any such vote would take time to prepare because of state regulations governing school districts. In response to a comment by Waters that he was just “kicking it down the road,” Bentley said: “He’s telling you what he has to do, not kicking it down the road.”

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