By Jamie Wiggan
Sto-Rox school directors unanimously backed a motion to approach the neighboring Montour about the possibility of the two districts merging.
The May 27 motion passed one week after the board approved a 2021-22 spending plan projecting heavy losses despite a tax increase and a large sum of relief funding from the federal government.
“[The proposal is] based 100% on the unfair funding of the Sto-Rox School District,” Superintendent Frank Dalmas said in a later interview. “I can’t keep begging for money when no one else has to.”
While Sto-Rox is running a negative fund balance of more than $9 million, Montour exceeded its revenue forecasts for the previous school year and recently passed a new spending plan projecting additional growth.
Dalmas said his first move will be to talk with Montour administration, where he hopes to convince them a merger would be mutually beneficial.
While the Sto-Rox district is looking for a larger tax base to draw from, Dalmas said Montour could also benefit from joining with a district with a more diverse student body.
“I don’t see why this isn’t a win-win for both districts,” he said. “[Montour] has an opportunity to step up and promote diversity and inclusion.”
“Teenagers today look for that diversity, they look for that inclusion, they don’t fear it.”
According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 84% of students enrolled at Montour are white, while 6.2% are Black. At Sto-Rox, 26% of students are white and 58.4% are Black, according to the same data set.
An initial statement from Christoper Stone, Montour superintendent, suggests the suburban district is unwilling to sit down at the table unless pressured to by the state.
“The Montour School District has no desire to entertain any conversations with any school districts relating to a merger,” Stone wrote in an email statement. “This is a matter governed by state law. Montour will have no further comment.”
State Rep. Anita Kulik, whose district straddles both districts, said she had not been contacted by either administration and had no comment to give at this time.
Eric Brandenburg, a business consultant for Sto-Rox, said it’s unclear where the discussions will lead but stressed the district’s current financial formulation is unsustainable.
“Hopefully there can be some type of solution and hopefully someone will listen because Sto-Rox is in such financial disarray,” he said. “The district has nowhere else to go.”