By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN – Henry Ford Community College is looking to voters for approval to increase their millage in the November election.
At the HFCC Board of Trustees meeting July 15, the board voted 5-1 in favor of placing the issue on the ballot. Board Vice President Hussein Berry was absent from the meeting.
The ballot proposal calls for 4 mills, with 1 mill of that being new taxes. The college estimates that the increase will help generate around $35 million.
HFCC President Stan Jensen said the millage will help the college rebuild its fund balance.
“We’re still in very difficult times,” Jensen said. “It’s hard for any of us to know what the next five to 10 years will look like. We have a long road ahead.”
The lone vote against the proposal was from HFCC Board Treasurer James Schoolmaster, who said that the 10-year proposal was possibly too long and that the college should only try for a three- or five-year millage to help it out of its current financial situation.
Board President Pamela Adams said the board could decide not to collect the extra revenue in the future if the college did not need to, but that the extra revenue is needed in the present.
Jensen added that keeping the millage throughout its term will allow the college to build their fund reserve for capital projects.
HFCC Trustee Mary Lane did not vote against the proposal but said that she was unhappy that the board members did not receive the details of the proposed millage hike until the last minute.
The millage is the latest measure by the college to work down the $6.5 million budget shortfall it faces this fiscal year. The actual shortfall is $16.6 million, but through a combination of cuts, re-configuring of programs and revenue increases such as tuition hikes the college can take $10.17 million from that total.
The college has also instituted an amnesty program for students with outstanding debts to the college, closed its Lifelong Learning Program and laid off staff, including 14 administrators last month. The amnesty program will run through Aug. 14 and allow former students who owe the college money from the Winter 2012 semester or earlier a chance to pay off their debts at a 50 percent rate.
The 1 mill would be a tax increase of $1 per $1,000 of taxable value of a house. A homeowner with a house with a taxable value of $100,000 will see a $100 increase in taxes.
The other 3 mills will be two renewals that are set to expire in December 2014. One part is a 2.5 mill levy that is renewable every 10 years and the other is a .5 mill levy that is renewable every five years. The two levies generate $10 million annually for the college.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])