July 20, 2012
Residents in the Mayfield and Northville school districts will decide this fall on whether a proposed merger of the two districts will move forward.
The boards of education of both the Mayfield and Northville school districts voted unanimously Thursday, July 19, to put the merger proposal before voters in a non-binding, advisory referendum—also called a “straw poll vote”—set for Tuesday, Sept. 18.
If a majority of voters in each school district approves the advisory referendum, then a binding referendum will take place on Oct. 25. If a majority of voters in each district approves the binding referendum, the new merged district would begin operating on July 1, 2013.
Prior to the approval of the public vote, the two boards held a joint session during which board members and administrators answered questions from the crowd of about 20 people who attended.
“We have to accept that if we do not merge, the school districts will not just continue the way they are. Neither district can afford to sustain its programs on its own,” Northville Superintendent Kathy Dougherty said. “Without a merger, in five years we will be unable to deliver an educational program that will be certified by the state.”
Both districts predict budget shortfalls in the next two school years that could lead to the layoff of more teachers and staff than is called for in the districts’ merger plan. The districts combined have already cut, mainly through attrition, nearly 60 employees during the last five years.
The further loss of staff would lead to the elimination of remaining non-mandated programs, including elementary music and art, extracurricular activities and interscholastic athletics.
“State aid losses, rising costs and an overburdened local property tax base are forcing cuts to academic programs and extracurricular activities to an unsustainable degree,” Mayfield Superintendent of Schools Paul G. Williamsen said. “If residents wish a viable school system to continue operation in the area, then the districts must change.”
A merger of the two districts would lead to increased efficiencies and result in the districts receiving a significant increase in state funding through incentive merger aid. It’s estimated that if the districts merged, they would receive nearly $19 million in additional aid from the state over the first 14 years of operation. The merger study completed by outside consultants early this year outlines a plan to stabilize the merged district’s tax levy through the 2026-27 school year and beyond by using the extra aid to establish reserve accounts and to pay down existing debt.