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What you need to know for 08/20/2017

Northville voters reject proposed merger with Mayfield

Northville voters reject proposed merger with Mayfield

The Mayfield and Northville school districts won’t be merging this year.
Northville voters reject proposed merger with Mayfield
Debbie Smigen and her son Michael, 9, of Mayfield, leave a voting booth at Mayfield High School Tuesday. Monitors Terri Brubaker and Nancy Hamilton stand at center.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

The Mayfield and Northville school districts won’t be merging this year.

Voters from each district went to the polls Tuesday to decide if the two traditional rivals should become a single district. Mayfield residents voted in favor of a merger 386-273, but Northville residents shot it down, 670-309. Both districts had to agree for the merger to go forward, so Northville and Mayfield will remain separate entities.

In Mayfield, voters were not surprised by the outcome.

“We’re voting it in,” said Mayfield resident Martha Ruliffson. “They’re voting it down.”

She voted at 6 p.m., two hours before the polls closed, and she knew how it would turn out. As Mayfield goes, she couldn’t see a downside to a merger.

“My understanding is,” she said, “we don’t have a lot of money. Why wouldn’t we take the state money and run?”

In order to encourage smaller rural districts to merge, the state offers incentives. When the Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville school districts to the west merged last year, the state promised them $14 million in extra aid over 15 years for their trouble.

If Mayfield and Northville had agreed to merge, they would have received roughly $18 million in extra state aid over 15 years. But the cash wasn’t enough to entice the majority of Northville voters.

Tuesday evening, people drifted in and out of the Mayfield gymnasium, talking, voting, and eating complimentary pretzels and cookies. The mood was altogether different 10 miles north. Northville residents stood in long lines, generally without talking. Ballot machines rang in quick rhythm.

“I voted no,” said Joel Bausewein, who has lived in the district since 1979, watching the school shrink from 800 students to just more than 400.

Despite mourning the loss of programs like art and music, he said a merger won’t help much.

“Once the money runs out, we’ll be right where we were before,” he said.

That wasn’t even his main argument against a merger. Northville has a relatively low school tax rate. A merger would have leveled tax rates, lowering Mayfield’s taxes slightly and raising taxes on Northville residents by a projected 10 percent. For Bausewein and many others in the voting line, higher school taxes was a deal-breaker.

“For a lot of these folks,” said Northville school board member James Beirlein, “that’s a big increase to swallow all at once.”

Shawn and Amy Czadzeck were in the minority. Their 6-year-old son, Rylan, is starting first grade next year. They voted for the merger in the hopes he would get the chance to take more art and music classes.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Amy Czadzeck asked.

“A rock star,” Rylan said from under a thick stocking cap.

Before the votes were tallied, Shawn Czadzeck said he’d have to consider moving his family to a better school district in Saratoga County, should the merger go down.

Now that the merger is shot down, another attempt with Northville can’t legally be made for a year, though residents of Mayfield have in the past suggested a merger with the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District to the south.

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