State must eye mergers

Another year, another reminder in Fulton County of how expensive it is when districts fail to merge.

Hopefully, the state will do more in the future to give districts the needed incentive to merge. Paying more in the short run to encourage a merger should be a lot cheaper than the long-term costs associated with keeping two small school districts functioning.

In January, Mayfield Central School District residents voted 136-77 in favor of a $15.5 million capital project. State aid will cover 81.4 percent of the total project cost.

Meanwhile, residents in the Northville Central School District are being asked to consider a $7.5 million capital project, which they will vote on March 22. After state building aid, the local share of the project would be about $4.3 million, according to information from the district.

It is important to remember that these two districts looked at merging in 2012, but the idea went down in defeat in Northville.

As we noted before, while there were many concerns voiced by residents in Northville, a key one was the fact a merger would have raised their taxes in the first year.

They are by no means the only school districts in the state that have rejected a merger. Too often, the offered incentives – including some additional aid – do not make it seem worthwhile for both districts to OK the merger.

Given that the state has to maintain these districts to some extent, we hope state officials consider how much it costs to support these districts in the long run, versus how much it would cost to provide more aid to encourage a merger.

The state should take a serious look at why mergers fail, and how much it can sensibly afford to lay out to help make the mergers happen.

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