Northville, Mayfield schools move forward

Proponents of a proposed merger between the Northville and Mayfield school districts argued increasing costs could result in big property-tax increases for the districts if they didn’t merge.

But as the two districts move forward after the proposed merger failed in January, neither district plans to cut staff or programs and both plan to keep tax increases below 2 percent in 2014-15.

In January, Mayfield voters approved the merger, 386-273, but Northville voters rejected it, 670-309. Support from voters in both districts was required to approve the merger. As a result of the vote, neither district can pursue a merger with another school district for a year.

Northville Interim Superintendent Debra Lynker said her district will focus on stabilizing its budget for 2014-15. While the budget process is only starting and specific numbers are unavailable, Lynker said she expects the district will stay under the state-imposed 2 percent property-tax cap.

“We weren’t talking about being in dire straights immediately,” said Lynker, who was referring to the arguments in support of a merger.

She said budget problems may arise in future years. Lynker said she is unsure how the district would get through the next five years without using its fund balance. Lynker said the district may use $350,000 of the fund balance in the next budget. She was unsure of the fund balance total at this time.

Increases to state aid will help the two districts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget calls for an 8.2 percent aid increase for the Mayfield district in 2014-15, bringing the amount to $7.6 million in aid.

The Northville district would receive $3.2 million in state aid, an increase of 6.5 percent.

The numbers do not include building aid.

Mayfield Interim Superintendent Joseph Natale said the Mayfield district also should stay within the 2 percent tax cap in 2014-15.

“We are always going to be constrained by the tax cap,” Natale said.

He said it would not take much of a new expense to go over the cap, but the district plans no major spending increases. He said the district will focus on moving forward with existing programs.

Natale said he hopes state legislators will increase aid for local schools more.

Mayfield Board of Education President Ernie Clapper said Northville’s vote against the merger set the course for Mayfield.

“We don’t anticipate bringing it up to the voters [again],” Clapper said.

Clapper said he is worried about Mayfield and other districts’ future.

Clapper said schools may be forced to cut back to what’s mandated by the state and offer little more than that.

Right now, Clapper said his school board’s goal is to stabilize the district as best as the board can.

Both districts are planning to hire permanent superintendents.

Northville is accepting applications for the superintendent position.

Clapper said Mayfield may vote to open the search for a superintendent in the coming weeks.