Suspect financial information passed via Facebook and between residents in an anonymous pamphlet could undercut a second merger attempt between the Northville and Mayfield central school districts.
Northville Board of Education President James Beirlein is a big merger supporter. He backed the idea last September when Northville residents shot down the merger 2-1 in a straw vote.
Now there’s another straw vote, set for June 25, but he’s worried the results will be skewed by misinformation.
Late last week, he learned of a pamphlet making the rounds among local residents. Through tax levy information, it suggested Northville taxpayers would end up shouldering more than their fair financial share should the merger move forward.
It also claimed collective debt would increase by nearly $23 million in the coming years.
“This sort of thing certainly has the potential to influence the vote,” he said.
He brought the two-page document to Hamilton Fulton Montgomery BOCES District Superintendent Patrick Michel to see if the claims were correct.
Michel said they weren’t. In fact, he said, the document was so far off he felt a moral need to correct it.
“I usually don’t like to get in the middle of things like this,” he said, “but this was just trash. I had to say something.”
In a release sent to the school for distribution, Michel went through the pamphlet’s various claims.
“Its main mistake is assuming there will still be two districts after a merger,” he said. “By definition, there will just be one district.”
The document suggests a merger would lead to Northville residents paying more than $10,000 per student, about what they pay now, while Mayfield residents would pay less than half of that.
Michel said that in a merger situation taxes would be leveled across both current districts. By his current estimates, each student in a merged district would cost $7,000 to educate.
As for the extra $23 million in predicted debt, he said a merged district would likely save money through efficiency. Plus, the state is offering an $18 million merger incentive to be paid out over 15 years.
“I’m not actually sure how whoever wrote this even got the numbers they did,” he said. “I went over our 200-page merger report three times.”
So far, Beirlein hasn’t been able to track down the author of the document. At this point, he just hopes the damage isn’t irreparable.
“A lot of people saw the pamphlet,” Michel said.
He described it getting passed between parents and teachers, even making its way to his office through a staff member from Northville, days after Beirlein contacted him.
Michel, who helped facilitate past merger attempts, is openly in favor of a merger but maintains his bias didn’t influence his statements.
“It’s up to the people who pay taxes in that area,” he said. “I just want them to have the true facts before voting.”
The vote is set for noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, in the Northville school gym. Beirlein was quick to point out that as a straw vote, it is non-binding.
“It just allows us to move forward with an actual binding merger vote later on,” he said.
For detailed figures on a possible merger, visit northvillecsd.org.
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