Editorial: In Northville, prudent government

The Detroit News

The city of Northville and the Northville Public Schools are exploring the use of a vacant school building for joint offices.

Both entities would shut down their current facilities and move into the building, which would be renovated. The project is in its early stages with a feasibility study underway to obtain estimated costs and determine if it would be financially worthwhile. That decision probably won’t come until March or April.

Although the project isn’t definite, the thinking behind it certainly is fiscally sensible.

As City Manager Patrick Sullivan notes, officials in both governmental units think there is potential savings by using the same building and by sharing the myriad of operational office costs, from computer systems to copying machines.

School systems and municipal governments have been doing some classic out of the box thinking over the past few years, especially since the Great Recession. Although the economy has improved, the need for creative planning and budgeting continues.

“(The project) follows the mode that many communities and schools have been in,” says Sullivan. “They are trying to save money while still providing our core services.”

The fact both the city and the school district have balanced budgets is noteworthy and the efforts they are making to further save money is commendable.

Consolidation, sharing services and privatization are proven methods of stabilizing governmental budgets without increasing the tax burden on residents.

That, Sullivan stresses, is the goal of this project.

No new construction is planned, partly because both units want to avoid the need for a bond issue.

They have their sights on a vacant building known as the Old Village School. The three-story structure was built in the 1920s and until recently go it was used for special education programs. However, the building was too big for the number of students involved and so those programs were moved.

However, it would nicely house offices for the city and the school district, with some renovation.

This is not the first time Northville or the school district has shared services.

The city provides fire services to Plymouth and shares police and fire dispatch services with Northville Township. A library is shared by the city and the township and Northville has fire mutual aid agreements with the city of Novi and Plymouth Township.

The city and the township also sponsor joint parks and recreation programs. The school district is involved because it furnishes the building space for the programs.

Municipalities and school districts provide distinctly different basic services. But they deliver them to one common group – residents.

Consequently, when two entities can get together to save tax dollars, everyone wins.