SALAMANCA – The city School Board has filed a petition to consider selling Salamanca Elementary School, according to School Superintendent Robert J. Breidenstein.
The district has been approached by the Seneca Nation of Indians to sell the building. The timing of the offer was interesting, Breidenstein said. The school was not listed for sale and had not been proposed as being on the block when the Senecas made the offer, he said.
“Under normal circumstances, a school is closed and shuttered as a buyer is sought,” he said. “In this situation, we were approached by a viable and legitimate third party.”
The process will move along an aggressive timeline to bring the matter to the board, and eventually to a referendum, Breidenstein said.
“We have a bit of work to do,” Breidenstein said. Figuring out staffing levels, internal traffic patterns, appropriate size of current facilities and even transportation models would all have to be analyzed to make sure the consolidation and reconfiguration of the district’s 1,330 students would be the best thing for everyone involved.
Maneuvering that has culminated in the potential sale of the building started as this year’s budget was being created and presented, Breidenstein said.
“There were rumblings of closing a building last year as we faced a $2.1 million deficit in the budget,” he said. “We opted to close the middle school and consolidate into a junior/senior high school. Publicly, it was said that buildings needed to close. The community said we, as a district, needed to be bolder and more aggressive in our financial responsibilities.”
Through increases in state aid, personnel action and confidential managerial staff contract concessions, the district has closed what was once a projected deficit of $980,000 for the coming school year and will vote on adoption of a budget that will have no tax increase, according to Breidenstein.
The likelihood of the referendum on the sale of the elementary school finding its way onto the same ballot as the budget vote and the School Board election is “possible in its thinnest possible definition,” he said.
Under state law, a period of 45 days has to pass before the sale of property in a school district can be voted upon by the community.
The filing of the petition is the culmination of three to four weeks of preliminary talks among the district, the Seneca Nation and the City of Salamanca. The three entities have been working closely since the November elections in the Seneca Nation and city governments.
“It’s been a situation of, ‘You do this well, how can we do what you do? You do that well. Teach us how you do it.’ kind of thing,” Breidenstein said. “I have heard from many people that the interaction of the three organizations is unparalleled in our area’s history.”