Vote may prove costly

Last week, voters in the Northville Central School District struck down a proposed merger with the Mayfield Central School District. By a ratio of more than 2-1, Northville residents said they didn’t want a consolidated school district with Mayfield, even though it would have resulted in more state aid and programs for the two districts. Voters in Mayfield approved the merger by a vote of 386-273, but without Northville’s approval, the merger proposal is dead, at least for now.

Some Northville residents said they didn’t want their taxes to go up by about 10 percent, which a study of the merger idea said would happen once the two districts merged. We wonder if those same voters are prepared for the level of tax increases that likely will be necessary to maintain the district’s programs going forward.

Much of the rhetoric surrounding the merger vote asserted the idea Northville residents should not allow the state to pressure them into merging with another district. This ignores the reality that without state aid, Northville residents – and residents of any of the school districts in Fulton County – could not operate their school districts as they exist now. The costs of school districts’ public-employee contracts and state-mandated expenses are simply much too great for local taxpayers to bear without help from the state.

Northville also has a problematic teachers union contract that mandates a maximum number of students for classes in every grade level. This is not a common restriction in local teachers union contracts. It gives Northville few options for cutting expenses, which will make it more difficult for the district to stay under the state’s 2 percent property tax cap. Northville, like most districts, has ever-increasing health insurance costs from plans the district is contractually obligated to provide for its employees and retirees. Northville Business Manager Bruce Ellsworth told The Leader-Herald on Monday that about half of the money the district spends on health insurance goes for retirees, many of whom pay either nothing or very little toward their health insurance. The district is legally obligated to provide that health insurance to those retirees until they die.

Northville likely will need to exceed the 2 percent tax cap in order to maintain its operations. It will be interesting to see what happens if voters refuse to approve tax increases after they rejected the merger.

Many Northville residents didn’t want to accept the simple truth that their school district is quickly becoming more expensive than they can afford without additional state aid.