Board OKs election to renew school millage rate

District, city look to have proposals on same ballot

By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — The Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education voted to hold a Feb. 25 special election to renew the 18 mills levied to fund the school district.

The date of the special election came up during a city council discussion of the proposed election for a general operating millage increase Nov. 28, and City Clerk William Griggs said he would like to see the two proposals on the same ballot.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into any election, but the short notice makes it relatively more difficult and complicated,” Griggs said. “If the school board would like to continue with a February election, then I have no problems with it. By working together we can better serve the community as a whole and save the taxpayers money.”

Both millage proposals would need to be approved by the attorney general and Gov. Rick Snyder. School district Business Manager Kenneth Laub said some board members will meet with Mayor Joseph Peterson and other city officials next week to discuss the options available.

“I understand what (the city clerk) is talking about because it is a lot of work to put together an election,” Laub said. “He requested we move our election to coincide with a vote on the proposal for the city’s millage increase.

“Based on the request by Mr. Griggs, we want to make sure we have that discussion with the mayor to make a final decision. We want to be good partners because we are all in this together.”

If the millage is renewed, Laub said there would not be a change in residents’ taxes because it is a non-homestead tax and does not apply to a residents’ primary place of residence. He said the income generated from an average non-homestead property — a business with a $200,000 taxable value — would be about $3,600.

“The 18 mills focuses on industrial and commercial property, second homes and rental properties, but not on the average residential taxpayer,” Laub said. “This proposal is critical for us and means the difference of about $3.1 million in revenue.”

The school board wants to renew the millage as early as possible, Laub said, because the gubernatorial primaries will be held in August and the election for the mayor, Senate, and House of Representatives elections are being held in November.

“An early vote is especially important because of the very active election season,” he said. “The reason we want to do it in February is because it was the best opportunity for us to hold the vote on this millage.

“The sooner we know this millage is approved, we would better footing for developing future budgets. The opposite of that is it would give us some options to come back in August or November to get that approval.”

The original tax levy was approved in 1994 after the state enacted Proposal A, Laub said, and was last renewed 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 current levy — at a rate of 17.919 mills — expires at the end of 2015, but could be renewed until December 2020.

Residents can go to the Wyandotte Public Schools webpage, www.wyandotte.org, to review the ballot language and other information regarding the millage proposals.

The general operating millage increase proposed to the council was tabled — by a 4-3 vote with the mayor voting — for discussion during a study session. The study session is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, and Griggs said the council could vote during that study session or the subsequent council meeting.

City Administrator Todd Drysdale said the proposal would need at least five council members to approve it before the city clerk could forward it to the attorney general and Snyder.

Drysdale proposed the council renew the current 1.75 mills general operating millage rate and increase it to 3 mills for a period of five years. The current budget projects a $1.35 million deficit for the 2016-17 fiscal year, and Drysdale said revenue generated by the current levy of 1.75 mills is about $1.04 million.

He said the 3 mills would generate $1.112 million because of the drastic decrease in property taxes and the total increase to the average resident — living in a $100,000 house — would be about $5.50 a month, or about $60 a year.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)

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