HFCC ready for public to vote on millage renewal and hike

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Meeting for the last time before the Nov. 5 general election, the Henry Ford Community College Board of Trustees and administration members discussed the college’s ballot proposals and the community response to them.

The two ballot proposals would equate to 4 mills, with 1 mill of that being new 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.

The extra mill would cost $3.75 a month to a homeowner with a home valued at $90,000, or the median value of a house in Dearborn.

HFCC Executive Director of Research Becky Chadwick said she has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the community at functions she had attended to discuss the millage proposal.

“I can tell you, because I’ve been out in the community speaking with various organizations, that many people have come up to me and told me how much they like the college and support it,” Chadwick said. “My feeling is that if everyone out there who supports the college actually gets out to vote we’ll be fine.”

Board of Trustees President Pam Adams said the last time the college asked for a millage it passed with over 80 percent approval.

“There’s always been a strong support for the college in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights,” Adams said.

HFCC President Stan Jensen said he hopes the voters have taken notice of the changes the college has made to erase its bad debt and align itself for growth in the future.

“We are really serious about investing every dollar that we receive wisely,” Jensen said. “We’ve shown that by the cuts we’ve made and different measures taken to improve our financial situation over the last few months.”

The college began the 2013-14 fiscal year facing a budget deficit of $16.6 million but is projecting a surplus of $1.4 million by Dec. 31.

Jensen said 95 percent of HFCC graduates stay in Michigan to live and work, many locally, which is a boon for the financial situation of the city.

“An investment in HFCC is an investment in Dearborn,” Jensen said. “There is a definite return to the city because our students buy gas or pizza here. Our students spend money here, but we have many graduates who stay and buy homes and pay taxes in the city too.”

Chadwick said that due to state law, 3 mills of taxes is collected for community colleges in every county. She said she has seen people change their opinions of the millage upon learning that.

“People want to maintain local control,” Chadwick said. “They want control of the college to remain with the Dearborn citizenry. Every district in Wayne County has to pay taxes to a community college, so if the millage is turned down to HFCC, it will go to another college in the county, such as Wayne County Community College.”

HFCC Vice President of Academic Affairs for Arts and Sciences Tracy Pierner said the extra mill would allow the college to have money set aside to get involved with new programs or make needed adjustments to existing ones.

Jensen stopped short of saying that the college’s future would be in jeopardy without the millage renewal, but did say that it would be a large blow to the institution.

“If we don’t get the renewal, we would definitely have to cut programs,” Jensen said. “That’s $10 million a year we would lose and we’ve already cut $9 million since last year. When we’ve already massively cut down in terms of finances, losing that money would really hurt.”

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)