Consolidation opponents, as usual, need a lesson even though it probably will not sink in. A hospital merger and a school merger are not the same thing. The following are some reasons why.
Hospitals are not consistently bailed out by Albany with generous state aid, to the tune of 55 to 75 percent of their budgets, annually. Schools are.
If the number of students - or customers - to a small, inefficient school district decreases, you are still guaranteed to receive your state aid.
If the number of customers decreases for a hospital, its revenues decrease.
If revenues cannot keep up with the expenses - most Western New York hospitals have trouble with this one - then the hospital will run a deficit.
If revenues cannot keep up with expenses in the schools - and every district in this county has this problem - staffing, academic and extracurricular programming will be lost while taxes will still increase at the same time.
If residents in neighboring districts have the courage and will to merge two schools, not only do students gain valuable educational programs and have enough athletes to actually field their own athletic teams, but there also is an infusion of tens of millions of dollars in state incentive aid over 15 years for building projects and to stabilize - not constantly increase - taxes.
Schools have not been through a Berger Commission, which in 2006 would have forced the closure of two county hospitals. The only reason Lake Shore Health Care Center, left, was allowed to stay open was because Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk agreed to take on the deficit-ridden Irving facility. Westfield stayed open after agreeing to a partnership with Saint Vincent Health System in Erie.
If county schools would have been through a Berger Commission, all those districts under 1,000 students would have been forced to close. Thus, the merger ideas for Forestville, Ripley, Westfield and Brocton schools would look like a much better option in the eyes of community residents.
But schools are not like hospitals. If hospitals ultimately run out of money, they close.
When schools run out of money, it gets passed on to the taxpayer and programming is cut to the bone as the enrollment decline continues.
For both institutions, the results equal ill consequences.