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April 30, 2013

West Bloomfield voters to decide on new school millage

By Sherri Kolade
C & G Staff Writer

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Voters will head to the polls to decide a millage request from the West Bloomfield School District.
WEST BLOOMFIELD SCHOOL DISTRICT BUILDING AND SITE SINKING FUND TAX PROPOSITION

This proposition, if approved by the electors, will allow the West Bloomfield School District to levy a building and site sinking fund millage, the proceeds of which will be used to make infrastructure improvements and repairs to the School District’s facilities. Pursuant to State Law, the expenditure of the building and site sinking fund millage proceeds must be audited, and the proceeds cannot be used for teacher, administrator or employee salaries, maintenance or other operating expenses.

Shall the West Bloomfield School District be authorized to levy one and one-quarter (1.25) mills ($1.25 per $1,000 of taxable valuation), for a period of fourteen (14) years, from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2027, to create a building and site sinking fund for the purpose of construction or repair of school buildings or any other purpose authorized under Michigan law? This millage would provide estimated revenues to the West Bloomfield School District of approximately Two Million Forty Three Thousand Four Hundred Twenty Six ($2,043,426) Dollars during the 2013 calendar year, if approved and levied.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Voters will have two choices when they approach the ballot box May 7 — to let the West Bloomfield School District building and site sinking fund millage proposal sink or swim.

The 14-year millage, if adopted, would last from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2027. If it passes, the owner of a home with a $200,000 market value would pay an additional $125 in taxes annually, which, multiplied over 14 years, comes to $1,750 in total.

The millage proposal comes after an earlier sinking fund proposal failed at the polls last November in a 46-54 percent vote. The proposal sought to levy a 10-year, 1.5-mill tax, which would have cost the owner of a home with a $200,000 market value $150 per year, which, multiplied over 10 years, would amount to $1,500 total. At a Dec. 17, 2012, Board of Education meeting, trustees voted 7-0 to propose a levy of 1.25 mills for a sinking-fund millage.

Superintendent Gerald Hill said they hope for a good turnout at the polls.

“We expect significantly lower turnout from the November election, as it was a presidential election with 65 items on  the ballot,” he said in an email. “We hope to get as many voters as possible at the polls because this is important for our community and its future.”

He said the new proposal will be easier on homeowners.

“We are asking for $25 less per year for a longer period of time, which is a 16 percent decrease in the annual levy, so less of a burden on the homeowner. Our needs have not changed. In fact, some have increased since school security and safety needs for emergency situations have become even more essential. With the lower millage, we will need to reschedule our projects over a longer period of time, and those costs could increase over time.”

Hill said that the building and site sinking-fund millage proposal is imperative in order to fix any needed facility repairs, which otherwise would be paid for from the “already strained” general fund.

“Over the past several years, all public schools have suffered severe cuts in state funding,” Hill said in the statement. “WBSD’s current funding from the state is $40 less than what we received 12 years ago” per student.

Hill said that without the millage, school programs could suffer.

Some residents have been vocal in their opposition of the millage proposal, citing that since the first millage proposal was voted down, another one should not be on a ballot so soon.

“We just had the election,” resident Ed Waszczenko said in an email. “People took time to voice their opinion, and they should not be asked to do it (vote) every few months because the school board was unhappy with the results.

“The initial proposal should have been feasible and reasonable, taking into account the current economic situation. There is plenty of room for cost-cutting without affecting education quality.”

Hill said the millage proposal is back on the ballot because of a need to help the schools.

“Our needs did not disappear after the November results,” he said. “The issue presented before the voters now differs because it is a 1.25 millage instead of the previously proposed 1.5 millage, and it is spread over 14 years instead of the original 10,” he said.

The 14-year plan would raise about $30.2 million, district officials said earlier in the year.

“We feel the results will be more favorable because we have had more time to communicate the needs for a (building and site sinking fund) with the community,” he said. “There doesn’t appear to be a realistic hope of getting any increases in funding from the state of Michigan.”

If the millage proposal is passed, Hill said, the district will work from a prioritized list of identified needs, which include security upgrades and modifications; interior and exterior replacements, such as boilers, parking lots and roofs; and technology infrastructure, including wi-fi. The approximated costs are about $23 million.

“(We will) address the most critical items on that list on a year-by-year basis,” Hill said. “This will enable us the opportunity to analyze each building, in terms of security upgrades and modifications, in order to make our schools more safe and secure learning environments for our students.”

West Bloomfield Clerk Catherine Shaughnessy said the special election will cost the school district about $50,000. Shaughnessy said that, in the past, the school district was billed about $20,000 or $30,000, but the law mandates that school districts must pay 100 percent of incurred costs. Of the 25 township precincts, 13 precinct locations will be open for WBSD voters; precincts five and 25 were combined for the special election. There are 15 precincts within the district.

There is a significant error in the article above. In describing the original proposal from last November, the article erroneously says the the tax would be $150 PER MONTH. That is INCORRECT. The article should have said, "...$150 PER YEAR"

The current proposal for 1.25 mills, would cost the homeowner of a house with market value of $200,000 just $125 PER YEAR. That's about the same cost as a gallon of milk per week, or one trip to Costco. My husband and I make similar charitable contributions to other worthy organizations that have less direct impact on our children and home values. It's a no-brainer for us to Vote YES on Tuesday.

Thank you for alerting us to the error. It has been corrected.