Mayfield, Northville prepare for merger vote

MAYFIELD – On the southern boundary of the Adirondack Park, the Mayfield and Northville school districts are gearing up for a Jan. 7 public vote on whether to merge.

Mayfield Superintendent Joseph Natale on Tuesday presented findings from a merger study during the final informational meeting regarding the proposed merger.

The presentation did not support or oppose the merger, according to district officials.

Natale said Tuesday’s meeting, which was streamed over the Internet so parents could watch at home, was the last before a “blackout” on informational meetings goes into effect. No other public meetings will be held to discuss the merger, but Natale said the school boards from both districts still can answer questions.

“There are many district challenges that we face,” Natale said.

He said with cuts over the last several years to staff and programs, the district, if merged with Northville, could bring back or add programs. The presentation said the merger would allow for full-time psychologists and social workers, optimal class sizes, additional electives, more instructional technology and fine-arts opportunities. Incentive aid also would be given to the combined district for the next 14 years.

According to the study, if the districts merge, taxes may increase in Northville and drop in Mayfield. Natale, presenting examples using a home with a true value of $100,000, said the 2013-14 school property tax bill for the home is $1,664 in Mayfield and $1,118 in Northville. If the districts were to merge and follow the suggestions of the feasibility study, the estimated school tax bill would be $1,245 for that property.

Natale said the merger would be a big change.

“To go from two separate school districts to one merged district is challenging,” Natale said.

When the merger proposal went to a public vote in September 2012, Northville residents voted against it and Mayfield residents voted for it.

A straw poll in Northville in June led the district to revisit the proposal. The new public binding vote on the merger proposal is scheduled for Jan. 7. Residents of both districts will vote.

During a question-and-answer session Tuesday, officials responded to concerns raised by people listening from home.

According to Natale, many class sizes would remain the same.

One question dealt with Mayfield’s building debt which, according to Natale, is $4.6 million. Northville’s debt is $4.3 million. Much of that debt would be paid for by state incentive aid, he said.

Nicole Costa and Steven Hathaway, residents of the Mayfield district, attended Tuesday’s meeting and said they are unsure about the merger.

Hathaway said he’s concerned that if the state is having money troubles, it wouldn’t gain by providing funding for this merger.

Arthur Cleveland is a reporter for the Leader-Herald newspaper, based in Gloversville.