By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — Residents are asked to vote on two millage proposals Tuesday that could impact how Wyandotte Public Schools receives its funding.
The first proposal is the renewal of an 18-mill, non-homestead tax levy that will bring in an estimated $3.1 million to the school district, Supt. Carla Harting said, while the second proposal is a 1-mill Headlee Amendment override millage.
“This election is crucial to Wyandotte Public Schools since the revenue accounts for about 10 percent of the school district annual budget,” Harting said. “If the millage does not pass, the state will not replace the funding and the district will be forced to reduce or cut programs to offset the loss.”
Proposal 1 does not affect the taxes paid on a residents’ primary residence, Wyandotte Public Schools Business Manager Kenneth Laub said, since the proposal is a tax that would not be levied against the average resident
“The 18 mills focuses on industrial and commercial property, second homes and rental properties, but not on the average residential taxpayer,” he said. “This proposal is critical for us and means the difference of about $3.1 million in revenue.”
By law the district is not allowed to levy more than the 18-mills, Laub said, and the taxes collected from any property cannot rise faster than inflation. He said during the timeframe of the previous millage the district had to roll back the amount of the millage to match inflation, but there was no Headlee override and it could not recoup the difference after the rollback was made.
“If the 1 mill is approved by voters, along with the 18 mills, the district could borrow against the proposed Headlee override to ensure the 18 mills stays whole,” he said. “A significant amount of school districts do these types of proposals to protect themselves. It is a fiscally responsible thing to do.”
Laub said there is no foreseeable reason to have to use the Headlee override with the current decline in property taxes, but if there was a rollback the district would be able to borrow the difference from the Headlee override. If a rollback of one-half mill occurred, he said, then the district could take that half mill from the Headlee when property values drop under inflation.
“We will probably never have to use it, but it would there if we would ever need it,” he said. “The proposal is about revenue preservation and not revenue generation.”
Harting said the district has taken steps to cut costs that do not directly affect the quality of the education the students receive and “worked diligently to buck the trend” of large deficits incurred by other districts, cut programs, or reduced support services. She reiterated that any reduction in the current operating budget would present “significant challenges.”
The original tax levy was approved in 1994 after the state enacted Proposal A, Laub said, and was rolled back in 2005. The original legislation decreased the school operating tax rate on homestead properties in Wyandotte by 84 percent — from 36.15 mills to 6 mills — and decreased the rate on non-homestead properties by 34 percent — from 36.15 mills to 24 mills.
In 2005, the legislation was changed and capped the amount levied by the school district to 18 mills. The school district operating millage is presented to residents, for approval, every 10 years. The current levy — at a rate of 17.919 mills — expires at the end of 2015, but Laub said district officials would like to begin working on future budgets.
“The sooner we know this millage is approved, we would have better footing for developing future budgets,” he said. “The opposite of that is it would give us some options to come back in August or November to get that approval.”
The city will have 10 polling precincts available for the election. Residents will have to provide a valid picture identification to vote and are only able to vote at the precinct location on their voter registration card.
Precinct 1 is at the Downriver Italian American Hall, 646 Biddle Ave.; Precinct 2 is at the Copeland Center, 2306 Fourth St.; and Precinct 3 is at Yack Arena, 3131 Third St. Precincts 4 and 5 are inside the VFW Hall, 633 Ford Ave., and Precinct 6 is at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School, 609 Tenth St. Precinct 7 and 10 is at the Lincoln School, 1940 Ludington, while Precinct 8 is at Woodrow Wilson Jr. High School, 1275 15th St. Precinct 9 is inside Washington Elementary School, 1440 Superior Blvd.
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])