Advocates of a merger between the Mayfield and Northville school districts have their work cut out for them as voters who rejected the idea of formally studying the idea last fall participate in a second straw poll on the subject Tuesday.
Last fall’s vote succeeded in Mayfield but was defeated by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in the much-smaller Northville district. That’s too bad because both districts have had to cut their budgets while raising taxes substantially the past few years, and a merger would allow for some reversal of that trend.
And despite the best efforts by administrators from both districts to educate the public on the benefits of a merger, some anonymous opponents have resorted to underhanded tactics to persuade residents that they should oppose the move. As a story in Tuesday’s Gazette indicated, they’ve made bogus claims in a pamphlet circulating around the school districts and posted similarly erroneous information on Facebook. So devoid of merit were their claims that they moved the superintendent of the Hamilton Fulton Montgomery BOCES district to denounce them as “trash.”
The issue has been an emotional one all along, and with only a few days to go before the vote, it may be impossible to get the truth out to voters. In a nutshell it is this: Combined, the two districts would qualify for an $18 million bump in state aid over 15 years. That’s substantial, given the size of the two districts: Northville, with roughly 500 students, has a budget of just $10 million; while Mayfield, with twice as many students, spends $17 million annually.
Aside from the big increase in state aid, combining the two would provide advantages to taxpayers of both districts as economies of scale could be realized in a variety of ways: fewer administrative and clerical employees would be needed; demand for space would be reduced; volume discounts on purchases would be larger.
A combined district would also be stronger educationally and athletically as programs now considered unfeasible due to lack of demand could be supported. Job turnover would be reduced; and the nasty program cuts that have been implemented in recent years could be stopped, if not reversed.
Tuesday’s vote is nonbinding; it will simply give the districts permission to study a merger more fully. Voters would get a second crack at the plan later on, after more of the details become known. But until then, with so much money on the line, voters of both districts owe it to themselves to vote to at least take a closer look.