Town of Porter: Closing of Stevenson Elementary in Ransomville fearedby jmaloni
by Terry Duffy
Topics at Monday's Porter Town Board meeting included recycling, 2013 budget talks, chamber funding and zoning. But the biggest matter by far came from residents concerned about a possible closing of W.H. Stevenson Elementary School in Ransomville by the Wilson Central School District.
Debbie Parker, Candy Ingwersen and other Ransomville residents told the board of the possibility. It will be "financially devastating to Ransomville," said Parker. She advised Supervisor Mert Wiepert and board members there are 1,000 homes nearby that pay taxes to the Wilson School District and that such a move would impact the whole community.
Parker said her group has a meeting scheduled with the Wilson School Board on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Stevenson and urged board members and as many in the community as possible to attend.
In an email that came the next day Ingwersen expanded on the issue.
"Ransomville may lose its school," read the notice. "A public meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at W.H. Stevenson Elementary in Ransomville ... to discuss closing Stevenson in 2013. Stevenson is part of the Wilson Central School District, which has two elementary schools located seven miles apart - one in Ransomville and the other in Wilson, where the middle school and high school are located. The district wants more financial stability; therefore, it is looking to cut costs by closing Ransomville's school.
"In September, four options were presented to the Board of Education: (1) restructure middle school in 2015 and high school in 2016; (2) eliminate all non-mandated programs, including kindergarten, art, music, and other non-mandated courses; (3) eliminate all extracurricular activities; or (4) close W.H. Stevenson elementary in 2013.
"Only the fourth option - closing Stevenson - is currently being considered. The fate of Stevenson will be decided in early 2013.
"The public is urged to attend the Oct. 23 meeting and to contact board members. More information is available on the district website,http://www.wilson.wnyric.org/."
Parker said they are seeking to enlist the help of area businesses and local realtors to protest the move and asked the board what it can do. Town Councilman Joe Fleckenstein conveyed his support and replied the board has been aware of the issue. Wiepert indicated much the same.
Parker told the board that keeping Stevenson open represents just 2.3 percent of the Wilson School District budget; that 239 children, many from the town, attend Stevenson; and that 17 percent of Wilson school taxes come from the Town of Porter. "The possible closing will have ripple effects on the town," said Parker. "It's a bigger picture than just shutting down Stevenson," adding such a closure will disrupt the hamlet's business climate, even its quality of life.
"The children and your community need to show your support now," read a flyer distributed at the meeting. "The Board of Education will be making their decision by March 2013. If we do nothing now, the school will close in 2013. There are other options ..."
Wiepert said the Town Board has been in contact with the Wilson School Board and he conveyed its concerns on keeping Stevenson open. He and others indicted they'll be attending the Tuesday meeting.
In other news from the session:
•Supervisor's Assistant and Town Bookkeeper Norm Ault reported the town has begun the 2013 budget process. A 2013 tentative budget of $4.682 million was submitted on Oct. 1 that calls for a tax rate of $1.89 per thousand of assessed valuation. It represents a 5-cent increase over last year. The town will be further fine-tuning its budget in coming weeks en route to its anticipated Nov. 20 adoption date.
On a related note, the town announced it has cut its funding to the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce to $15,000.
•The board approved two zoning changes - one from low density residential to rural commercial for the former Portage House property on Blairville Road, the other from rural commercial to rural agriculture for a Lake Road property.
•Porter's population continues on the decline. Town Clerk Gail Zachary reported Monday that 2010 census numbers show 6,771 Porter residents, down from 6,920 in 2000, a decline of 2.2 percent.
•The town reported that its recycling venture with Modern will be kicking in over coming weeks. Ault said the town is expecting larger recycling bins to be delivered to the town by mid-November (size not announced) and that the town contract with Modern and its recycling program was anticipated to start in December. He said he was awaiting further information from Modern on a possible educational seminar for residents, expected to take place in early November.
•The town reported that Halloween trick or treat hours will be Wednesday, Oct. 31, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. - the same hours as the Village of Youngstown.