Proposal 1, transit millage pass, Wayne RESA millage fails

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The state-wide proposal eliminating the personal property tax and the county-wide proposal concerning a millage renewal and increase for the transit authority passed while a new millage for Wayne County schools was struck down by voters in the Aug. 5 primary election.

Proposal 1 passed state-wide with 69 percent approval and 31 percent voting against the measure.

According to the language on the ballot, the proposal will “reduce state use tax and replace it with a local community stabilization share to modernize the tax system to help small businesses grow and create jobs.”

With the approval, the state’s personal property tax, which generates revenue for essential services in every community like schools, and police and fire services, will be repealed though communities will still get 100 percent reimbursement for services from the state through funding brought in by three sources: Industrial taxpayers will switch from paying personal property taxes to a special assessment to the state, expiring tax credits to businesses and portions from the state’s Use Tax, a companion to sales tax applied to purchases when the state sales tax is not charged.

There is no tax increase involved for homeowners.

County voters also approved a millage renewal and increase from the Wayne County Transit Authority that will raise the taxes levied to 1.0 mill.

The measure passed 51,779 to 29,825 in Wayne County — it was also approved on the ballots in Oakland and Macomb counties — and concerns the existing millage of 0.59 mills on all taxable property in the WCTA area that is set to expire later this year.

The proposal increases the levied tax to 1.0 mill and extends collection through the end of 2017.

The increase is expected to bring in nearly $17.1 million to the WCTA in the first year alone that would go toward supporting the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, which provides a public transportation system for the elderly, handicapped and general public in Wayne County.

SMART General Manager John C. Hertel said funds generated from the millage would be for the general operating budget and would go toward replacing the aging fleet of buses used, some of which have over 800,000 miles on them.

“We are thrilled that voters in all three counties approved the millage by a 66 percent margin,” Hertel said. “Now we will set out to do what we promised, and replace the fleet of buses as quickly as we can over the next three years.”

Hertel said before the election that without the millage, SMART would have been forced to close its doors.

The closest proposal race came from the county-wide six-year, 2.0 mill enhancement millage from the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency.

As an “enhancement millage,” the mill was to be assessed to all taxpayers in the county.

The millage was narrowly defeated by just over 3,000 votes out of more than 198,000 total ballots cast.

The 2.0 mills were expected to generate $80 million annually for the duration of the millage, which would be collected based on property values but divided between the county’s 32 school districts according to student body count.

Wayne RESA Supt. Chris Wigent said money from the millage was to help struggling districts that have been receiving less money from the state because of lowering student counts by giving them additional funding for security, program support, technology upgrades and building repairs and maintenance, but a few districts in the county opposed the millage because their district would be paying more in taxes than what they would receive back.

Northville Public Schools Board of Education Treasurer Matthew Wilk said if the proposal passed the district would have to pay $5 million annually in new taxes but the schools would only be receiving $2.8 million.

The NPS board voted unanimously not to approve the millage request in April.

In the Grosse Pointe School District, where the board of education also voted against supporting the millage, taxpayers would have been paying just under $5 million annually while the district received $3.17 million in funding.

Dearborn Public Schools Communications Director David Mustonen said that the district would have received about $800,000 in new funding from the millage.

All three school districts in Dearborn Heights — Westwood, Crestwood and District 7 — were also due to receive funding from the mills.

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

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