SCHOOLS: State aid puts halt to mergers

Gowanda schools are looking for a partner in a potential merger, but neighboring small schools will never consider it. North Collins, Pine Valley and Forestville districts are always open to sharing services, but why merge?

New York state and Albany provide the answer. As noted in this corner on Sunday, Dunkirk — with a $44 million budget — receives 50 percent state aid. Small, rural schools, however, receive much more: about 70 percent to 75 percent.

For those smaller districts, thanks to the aid, there is no urge to consolidate. If New York state truly wants mergers, it needs to start reducing the aid given to smaller districts.

Take Ripley, as an example, with its $9 million budget for 300 students. If the state funds almost $7 million of the district’s budget, town property owners only have to fund the other $2 million.

Just think if that aid was cut to 50 percent? That is a tougher lift for those residents — an additional $2.5 million in taxes — and could lead to a merger.

Local decisions guide the schools. But with aid pouring in from Albany for small districts, the state is doing all the dictating.