CATTARAUGUS - The Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District will be closing the doors to its Little Valley campus starting in September.
Several members of the community came forward at Monday night's Board of Education meeting to voice their opinion on closing the building. Despite arguments, pleas and petitions, the board chose to shut down the Little Valley campus in a 5-2 vote.
In doing this, the district's primary school, located on its Cattaraugus campus, will house all students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade in the district, making it the only elementary school. Previously, the Cattaraugus campus only housed students in pre-kindergarten through second grade while Little Valley housed students in third and fourth grades.
Jon Peterson, superintendent of Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District, far right, goes over the final draft of the 2012-13 budget with the members of the Board of Education.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas
"It is inevitable that this building is going to be closed eventually, whether it is this year, next year, the following year. Budgets get tighter and tighter. We are working harder and harder, we are putting more and more time and effort into trying to make a viable budget," said Jeannette Stein, Board of Education member, before casting her vote to close the school.
Of the seven board members, only two voted to keep the school open. Kent Joesel was vocal during the meeting, voting to keep the building open.
"As a board member, you are only one person on the board, and we are all going to have different opinions. It is a hard job. It's not an easy decision. I am comfortable with my decision," Joesel said.
Jon Peterson, district superintendent, said that although the board had a very tough decision, it did a thorough job weighing the pros and cons of closing the school before voting.
When the Cattaraugus and Little Valley school districts merged in 1998, one of the assurances that the Board of Education made was that schools would remain open in both towns. In closing the Little Valley school, Peterson said that the district looked for a legal opinion to find whether it had to adhere to a previous board's words.
"A future board, this board, isn't bound by the actions of a board in the past, because conditions change. The number of students that we have in our district changed. The demographics of those students have changed, and the needs of the students have changed," Peterson said.
In addition to deciding to close the Little Valley Campus, the board unanimously approved a budget of $23,453,485, which includes a 1.99 percent tax levy increase. The board will be putting its budget to a public vote in May.
"Hopefully taxpayers will say that the board made a good financial decision and a good educational decision and support the budget," Peterson said.
However, if the budget does not pass, the board will have to make changes to its budget before putting it to a second vote. If it were to still not pass, the budget would move to a contingency budget, which would include a number of limitations.
"Fortunately, there aren't a lot of changes we would have to make, since our budget is cut already to be at a fairly low amount, but we would have some work to do to be at a contingency budget," Peterson said.