ROSCOE — The Livingston Manor-Roscoe Merger Advisory Committee met at Roscoe CSD on June 28 to discuss staffing and finances. Including committee members, about 40 people attended the meeting in person or via Zoom. The meeting featured presentations by consultants from Castallo & Silky LLC. Questions regarding building use and transportation brought up at the meeting earlier in the month were also addressed.
Nick Vallone of Rolling V addressed questions about how busing of students could work. He said he would recommend a single tier system, and to help keep runs an hour or less a shuttle system may be used. Later in the meeting, a committee member asked if bus routes would be known before a vote, but was told it would not be possible to know exact routes because routes are changed each year based on student population. Superintendent John Evans reiterated that the district would set parameters, for example longest time on a bus and bus pickup distance, that Rolling V would use to create the routes.
Consultant Alan Pole addressed building use suggestions from the previous meeting, where it had been suggested that prekindergarten through sixth-grade students could continue to be housed in their local school building, with the higher grades distributed across the two buildings.
Pole explained that the Livingston Manor building would not have enough room for Manor PK-6 students, plus all the students in Grades 7-12 in a merged district. However, he said it appeared as though there would be room in the two school buildings to arrange the grade levels so that each building would house prekindergarten through fourth-graders, plus a 5-8 middle school in Roscoe and a 9-12 high school in Livingston Manor. In each of those scenarios, an advantage would be younger students would be on a bus for a shorter time, he said. The disadvantages would be loss of savings in staffing and the loss of synergy by having all elementary students together.
A new pre-K-12 facility to replace both buildings would be estimated to cost about $74 million. The advantages would be a new facility, better transportation times, and favorable state aid. A disadvantage is the loss of the school buildings for each community.
The original suggestion of Roscoe holding Pre-K-6 and Livingston Manor holding 7-12 has a disadvantage of transportation times, but the advantage of synergy, staff savings, best use of space, and keeps the schools in the communities. If the merged district wanted to consider a new facility, "The time to talk about that is now," consultant Deb Ayers said.
If a merger is approved, staffing costs could be reduced with a reduction of six teaching positions and three district office positions. The consultants noted that staffing reductions can often be accomplished by “attrition,” or leaving open positions unfilled when someone retires or resigns.
Staff salaries would also have to be brought to the same level if the two districts were to merge. Union contracts would also need to be renegotiated. If the merger is approved, current contracts would be dissolved with the dissolution of the individual districts. Overall savings, once attrition is completed, are estimated to be about $630,000.
Questions were raised about the number of administrators in the proposal. The group noted that, while each district has two administrators with principal or assistant principal job titles, the roles are not identical between the two districts. Therefore, if the existing administrators were to continue in their roles, this is something that the board of the merged district would have to take a closer look at, the consultants said.
Ayers said the districts are very similar financially. Both districts are on solid financial footing and have seen strong community support of their budgets, and they have similar approved operating expenses per student. Property tax rates are slightly lower in Roscoe, but a merged district's rate is projected to be lower than Roscoe's current rate.
Livingston Manor has no building debt, and Roscoe's debt will be paid off in 2029. Both schools are receiving building aid payments. If a merger is approved, the current building aid payments would be paid at Livingston Manor's higher building aid ratio. Building aid for any new approved construction and building improvements would be at about 89% for 10 years, then would drop to LMCS’ current rate of 68.8>#/p###
If approved, the merged district will receive incentive operating aid, above normal state aid over a period of 15 years. It is paid at 40% of the combined operating aid of the districts in the 2006-07 school year for the first five years, then it declines 4% in years 6-14 and ends in year 15. It is recommended merged districts use the aid to support equality in program enhancements, tax reduction and long-range fiscal stability, but the board of the merged district would be able to decide how to allocate the funds. "Not being close to equal will lead to problems over time," Ayres said.
A recording of this meeting can be found at https://E2CCB-GST.zoom.us/rec/share/02cafihwlRDly-Lr73kMDUk9M9wBjYDxBMKNwLRhDLp1n5qy-PNIpuPPl8Q9R_Pf.03xk04NWJR1bkAOI
The districts are also planning to host a series of forums about the possible merger, scheduled as follows:
July 19: 6:30-7:30 p.m. via Zoom (link to be provided)
July 21: 10-11 a.m., Roscoe CSD (in-person)
July 21: 3-4 p.m., Livingston Manor CSD (in-person)
To RSVP for a focus group, district residents can call their local district office, or complete an online form: https://forms.gle/T8kjPSLonhEpUW1w6 . All are welcome to attend, but RSVP is requested to ensure that each school can accommodate all attendees. The purpose of the focus groups is to provide the two districts with feedback on the proposed merger. Anyone with an opinion about the merger is encouraged to attend.
At the committee’s next meeting, the draft report will be reviewed by the committee. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. July 25 in Livingston Manor.