N’ville-Mayfield merger proposal moving ahead

NORTHVILLE – Voters in the Northville Central School District voted Tuesday to allow a proposal to merge with the Mayfield Central School District to move forward.

In a 307-199 vote, residents approved a nonbinding “straw poll” on the proposed merger. The approval means the district can study the merger proposal further and send the plan to a binding public vote in the fall.

Northville voters rejected the proposal in a straw vote last September in a 457-256 vote, but the district put the plan up for a second vote after receiving petitions from the public. Mayfield school voters approved the straw vote last year.

“This is great day for children in both school districts and this is great for the future, too,” said James Beirlein, president of the Northville school board.

He said he thinks voters approved the straw vote this time because people had more information and clear facts about the proposal.

Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper said the public now will get more information about the proposal.

“This is only a straw vote; it’s a step in the direction of getting more facts,” she said. “The public needs more information in order to make an informed decision.”

Some Northville voters and school officials said a merger would be positive for the school districts.

Barbara Sperry, retired Northville principal said, “The students will benefit the most from this, and that’s what’s most important.”

Beirlein said a merger would “help continue great programming for kids. It will also return programs that were cut, and it will help advance new programs as well.”

To prepare for the binding public vote, Beirlein said the district will create “a plan that presents the proposal without confusion.”

Will Loveless of Northville, who served on the original committee to discuss the proposed merger, said he voted for the merger discussion.

“All the straw vote says is that we want information. We want information so we can decide if we want to go forward,” Loveless said.

Loveless said while people love having a small district, the times have forced people to consider a merger.

Sandy Herdman voted no for several reasons.

“For one, our children would be on the bus longer,” Herdman said.

Herdman also said she can’t see how the districts will save money.

Rosemary and John Shepard of Benson said they both voted for the merger discussion.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Rosemary Shepard said.

Officials in the two districts previously said the districts have been forced in recent years to cut programs because of budget issues.

A merger, officials have said, would allow the new district to operate more efficiently. If the districts merger, they could receive $19 million in additional state aid over the new district’s first 14 years of operation, officials have said. The merger aid would prevent budget gaps, improve programs and stabilize school taxes, officials said.

Reporter Arthur Cleveland contributed to this report.