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Without a merger
The merger process
Academic and extracurricular programs
On page 54-55 of the merger study findings, it states that we currently have 0.8 FTE middle school and 2.4 FTE high school foreign language teachers. That isn't true: We currently have 1.0 FTE at Northville and 1.7 at Mayfield.
If the new Board of Education can determine staffing and a budget that can be different from roadmap described in the merger study that is approved by voters, wouldn't a merger be a great leap of faith?
A: If there is no merger, Mayfield and Northville would continue as two separate school districts. Both districts project budgetary shortfalls for the foreseeable future:
District officials in Mayfield expect the district will have an $800,000 budget gap in 2013-14 and a $1.3 million budget gap in 2014-15.
District officials in Northville estimate the district will have a $1 million budget gap in 2013-14 and a $1.5 million budget gap in 2014-15.
A: Over the years, the districts have trimmed away anything that was not necessary to maintain a well-rounded education. All that remains are the programs and services that residents have come to expect as a regular part of school.
A: The boards of education would have to look at class sizes and all non-mandated programs—programs not required under the law. The list includes elementary art and music, elementary and high school library/media center, high school electives, extracurricular activities including interscholastic sports and even kindergarten.
A: No, financial projections for the near future show large budget gaps for both districts that will have to be filled by making deep cuts if the two districts do not merge.
A: While many residents do understand the circumstances the districts will face if there is no merger, there are most likely many who don’t. If there is no merger, Mayfield and Northville would continue as two separate school districts. Officials in both districts have agreed that without a merger, staff and program cuts will continue, and in the near future the districts will not have the financial resources to provide a sound, basic education for students.
A: The preliminary merger study report included many additions to educational and extracurricular programs suggested by members of the Community Advisory Committee during their initial brainstorming meetings. The plan would have raised school taxes in Northville to pay for those enhancements. The boards of education determined that any plan that called for a tax increase would not gain community support.
The boards of education and superintendents asked the merger study team to develop a second option that adjusted programming and staffing so that there would be no projected tax increase in the first year of a merged district. The boards ultimately approved the plan (sometimes called "option 2") that does not call for a tax increase in either community.
A: No, a community can vote on only one plan. The New York State Education Department and the boards of education have approved “option 2.” This is the only plan residents will consider when they vote on September 18.
It is important to note that the merger plan is a roadmap for the new Board of Education. Just because a particular program is not part of this proposal does not prevent the board of the merged district from considering it in the future.
A: Residents will vote on a merger proposal as described under option 2 of the merger study that:
Preserves existing programs;
Makes modest increases or enhancements to existing programs; and
Does not raise taxes in either Mayfield or Northville for the first year of the merged district.
A: Yes. The two districts have saved money over the years by buying cooperatively and sharing selected services. Unfortunately, state aid reductions have created a funding gap so large that nothing as simple as sharing services will fix the districts’ fiscal problems. The financial difficulties both districts now face are so large that a complete merger is the only way to significantly increase efficiencies and lower the overall cost of operations.
A: At this time, the Edinburg Common School District Board of Trustees has not taken a formal position on the merger. Edinburg students in grades 7-12 have attended Northville for many years and would continue to be welcomed in the new district. Edinburg students have been taken into consideration throughout the merger talks, and two Edinburg parents served as guest members on the merger Community Advisory Committee.
A: This is a valid concern, and it’s one that is frequently brought up in communities considering a school merger. Although there will be increased competition for “top” spots—i.e., starting point guard, class president—a merged district could potentially offer a greater variety of opportunities than each individual district on its own.
For instance, with a larger student body, each sport could potentially support multiple levels of competition—i.e., modified, JV and varsity. A merged district could also potentially offer different interscholastic sports that neither school district currently offers, such as boys volleyball. The same goes for extracurricular activities: Students in a merged district would likely have a greater variety of clubs and after-school programs to choose from.
In the classroom, a merged district could eventually offer more enrichment opportunities, such as foreign language instruction at the elementary level and Advanced Placement and college-level courses at the high school.
A: Yes, families of elementary students could be allowed to choose which elementary school their children attend. However, the merger study recommends that students attend their community school during the first year of a merged district.
A: The plan for the merged district would place students in grades 6-8 at a middle school located at the current Northville High School. The middle school model has been in use for many years in school districts across the country and best practices would be employed. It should be noted that the Northville district has already decided to shift to a middle school model for the 2012-13 school year.
A: Any decision about distance learning staffing would be made through contractual negotiations between collective bargaining units and the new Board of Education. Distance learning still requires the presence of an adult in the classroom during class time.
A: Mayfield currently starts its elementary day about an hour after the start of its high school day. At Northville, elementary and secondary students start at the same time because the district operates a single bus run for the sake of efficiency. In a merged school district, the transportation schedule would be re-evaluated and could be adjusted for programmatic or fiscal reasons.
A: Currently, secondary students from the Edinburg Common School attend school at Northville. Two representatives from Edinburg served on the Community Advisory Committee. If Mayfield and Northville merge, Edinburg will be encouraged to continue sending its grade 7-12 students to the new merged school district.
A: In any given year, officials at Edinburg could decide to send their secondary students to another school district and Northville would have to overcome the lost revenue from the Edinburg tuition. A merged district would be in a better position to deal with this lost revenue because it would be receiving merger incentive aid from the state.
A: Yes, both districts are forecasting significant gaps between projected revenues and expenses for the immediate future. District officials in Mayfield expect the district will have an $800,000 budget gap in 2013-14 and a $1.3 million budget gap in 2014-15. Officials in Northville estimate the district will have a $1 million budget gap in 2013-14 and a $1.5 million budget gap in 2014-15.
While a merger is not a magic solution, reorganizing the districts into one central district will result in increased efficiencies and will lower the overall cost of operations. A merger would also result in millions of dollars worth of state merger incentive aid that, if used wisely, would help stabilize taxes over the next two decades and provide the financial resources necessary to support quality education programs.
A: Because there would be one merged school district, there would be one true-value tax rate that everyone in the district would pay—the same rate per $1,000 of a property's true value regardless of which former district the property is located in. The merged district would be subject to the same legislation regarding school taxes as every other school district in the state, including the new tax levy "cap."
Q: Why is there such a large difference between each district’s debt? (See page 62 of the merger study findings.)
A: The majority of Mayfield’s existing debt is for building projects; the building condition surveys that were completed as part of the merger study reflect the work that has been done at Mayfield. Although Mayfield would bring a larger portion of the debt to a merged district, it also brings a higher building aid ratio, 91.4 percent. All debt in a merged school district would be reimbursed by the state at this rate.
A: The consultant team that completed the merger study included a 15-year financial blueprint to help the Board of Education of the merged district avoid financial difficulties when the merger incentive aid expires.
The study team’s recommendations include:
Pay down existing capital debt using $400,000 of merger incentive aid a year. State aid on those capital expenditures will continue coming to the school district on the original schedule, giving the district the opportunity to put that money to put into reserves or use it to offset the local tax levy.
Place a planned amount of the merger incentive aid into reserve accounts—i.e., capital, employee benefits—during each of the 14 years that the district receives that aid in order to help protect the district and the community against unforeseen expenditures and/or unforeseen economic factors.
Use $1.1 million of merger incentive aid to offset the local tax levy in the first year. Each year after that, reduce the amount of incentive aid used to offset the local tax levy by $78,572 ($1.1 million divided by 14 years). The district would have to make up that $78,572 through:
Increases in regular state aid to schools;
Finding on-going efficiencies;
Increasing the local property tax levy by approximately 8 cents per $1,000 of true value each year; or
Some combination of those options.
A: While few things in life are guaranteed, New York State lawmakers have shown significant interest in incentivizing municipalities—including school districts—to consolidate or merge. The state has provided funds for municipalities to study consolidation options (which Mayfield and Northville used to complete their merger study) and has offered increased aid to school districts who choose to consolidate (merger aid).
Even with these incentives, however, few school districts in our area have approved mergers. So, the actual payout of merger aid for the state will likely be a relatively small sum, especially in comparison with the state budget as a whole.
Also, if past precedent is any indication, the state has never NOT met its obligations concerning merger incentive aid.
A: Yes, the Reorganization Feasibility Study suggests a 15-year financial plan for the allocation of the reorganization incentive aid the new district would receive from the state. The study’s financial blueprint for the new district can be found starting on page 60 of the merger study.
A: Just as they can with their current school districts, residents of the merged district would be able to attend school board meetings and review the public information made available by state law. Residents would also continue to vote for new school board members and the annual school budget every May.
A: If the merger is approved, the new board of education could explore this option.
A: Northville Central Schools are exactly 10.25 miles from Mayfield Jr./Sr. High School. It takes approximately 15 minutes to drive between the two schools. Under the roadmap outlined in the merger study, the school day and transportation schedule would be designed so that no child would be on a bus longer than one hour each way.
A: Yes. The merger study includes provisions for late buses each day; however, the availability of a late bus would be dependent on the time that an extracurricular activity ends.
A: That’s actually not true. Combined, the two districts currently have eight administrators. Under the "option 2" roadmap, the merged district would only have seven administrators—fewer than the school districts have now.
The consultants who completed the merger study attempted to use a 25-to-1 ratio of staff to supervisors when formulating their recommended roadmap. However, in a merged district, each administrator or supervisor would supervise more than 25 people.
During the informational meeting held in March, members of the study team expressed their opinion that both school districts are currently understaffed in their administration. They pointed to New York’s new Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) requirements as one of many mandates that administrators must fulfill; in their opinion, neither school district has enough administrators to meet that requirement alone, nor would a merged school district.
A: There will only be one superintendent, who will be hired by the new board of education. Superintendents of the former districts would not have any statutory rights to that position in the new district.
The new school district’s Board of Education may select either one of the current superintendents or select a new person for the position. However, both current superintendents’ employment contracts would become the obligation of the newly reorganized school district. If the board of the new, merged district decides not to employ either superintendent, the merged district would have to buy out both contracts. If the board decides to hire one of the existing superintendents, it would have to buy out the contract of the other superintendent.
Northville Superintendent Kathy Dougherty has three years remaining on her current contract (through the 2014-15 school year) and Mayfield Superintendent Paul Williamsen has two years remaining on his contract (through the 2013-14 school year).
A: Yes. A merged district would have a part-time director of athletics, physical education and recreation who would be part of the instructional staff.
Q: On page 54-55 of the merger study findings, it states that we currently have 0.8 FTE middle school and 2.4 FTE high school foreign language teachers. That isn’t true: We currently have 1.0 FTE at Northville and 1.7 at Mayfield.
A: The FTEs in the merger study findings are from the 2010-11 school year, when both districts had different staffing levels in their foreign language departments.
A: Retirement benefits that are associated with the state’s retirement system would remain unchanged for retired employees from both school districts. Retirement benefits that are associated with an employment contract would be negotiated during collective bargaining with the new school district.
Individuals who are already retired from a school district may have certain protections regarding their health insurance: Chapter 504 of New York State Laws of 2009 prohibits the reduction of health insurance for retirees and their dependents unless there is a corresponding reduction of benefits or contributions for the corresponding group of active employees.
A: New contracts would have to be negotiated between employees and the new school district. Terms of existing agreements may become part of the agreements with the new school district. As is the case with all negotiations, both sides would have to make a good faith effort to negotiate collective bargaining agreements. Old contracts would remain in effect until a new contract was negotiated.
A: New bargaining units would be chosen by members of the union, just as was done with current bargaining units.
A: No. If both communities approve the merger in a straw poll (non-binding advisory referendum), two questions about the school board of the new, merged school district would be on the ballot when residents vote in the binding statutory referendum:
Should there be 5, 7 or 9 board members on the new Board of Education?
Should each board member’s term of office be 3, 4 or 5 years in length?
Each board seat would be considered at-large, meaning there would not be a specific number of "Mayfield seats" versus "Northville seats."
On Jan. 3, 2013, residents would vote in a special election to choose the first members of the merged school district's board of education. Board members would be elected based on a plurality—candidates who receive the most votes would serve the longest terms. Board members would be sworn in soon after the election and immediately begin the work required for the new district to begin operating on July 1, 2013. The board would be responsible for the first budget of the new, merged school district.
The two separate school boards would continue operating until all business of the two individual school districts is settled—i.e., paying outstanding bills—which would likely be until September 2013.
A: The new Board of Education of the merged district would use the merger study as a roadmap. The roadmap does not lock the new board into any decision. However, the new board must act in good faith regarding both staffing and the budget of the new district; the new board cannot make any arbitrary or capricious decisions.
A: New York State labor laws are clear. If Mayfield and Northville merged, every teacher employed by both districts at the time of the merger would become an employee of the new school district. Seniority of teachers would remain intact so that, if the new school district needed fewer teachers, the new Board of Education could reduce teaching positions on the basis of seniority within each tenure area.
Civil service employees would have varying rights in a new school district, depending on their civil service class (e.g., competitive, non-competitive, labor).
A: The state Department of Education will guide the districts through the merger votes. If the public approves the merger, HFM BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel will lead the transition. He will oversee board of education elections and remain as interim superintendent until the board hires a new superintendent. At that point, the board of education and the superintendent, with help from the staff and community, will set to work transitioning to a merged district.
A: The small-town feel of both communities won’t necessarily change if the two school districts merge. School facilities, events and parent-teacher organizations will remain in each community. It’s also important to note that a new merged district would still be relatively small—about 1400 students.
A: On Tuesday, Sept, 18, residents of both communities will vote in a non-binding advisory referendum (or straw vote) asking whether the Mayfield and Northville central school districts should merge. If the measure passes in both communities, residents will vote again on Oct. 25 in a binding referendum. If the proposal passes in both communities on Oct. 25, the two districts will prepare to begin operating as a merged district as of July 1, 2013.
A: Many resources are available for anyone who wants to know more about the merger, including the complete merger study and answers to frequently asked questions, which are posted on the websites of both districts. This summer, an informational newsletter will also be mailed to every home in the two communities.
Area residents are also encouraged to contact the school superintendents and board of education members in both districts with any questions they may have. Contact information is available on the districts' websites.
A: At this time, district officials are eager to make presentations to civic groups and other organizations in both communities regarding the proposed merger. Organizations willing to host a presentation are encouraged to call the district offices: 661-8207 (Mayfield) and 863-7000 (Northville).