MCC renewal and restoration millage on May 8 ballot

By: Maria Allard | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published April 26, 2018

MACOMB COUNTY — In 2000, Macomb County residents approved a 20-year property tax millage to benefit Macomb Community College’s operating expenses.

The millage, considered a local property tax, has provided 26 percent of the college’s revenue since the election 18 years ago.

The millage approved in 2000 is up for renewal this year. Macomb County taxpayers are asked to vote May 8 on a renewal and restoration millage that, if passed, will continue to generate property tax dollars for the college’s operating budget, including technology.

The May 8 ballot proposal is not a new millage, but the renewal of an existing one and is for 20 years. At the Jan. 17 MCC Board of Trustees meeting, the board voted 6-0 to place the renewal millage on the ballot. All the trustees in attendance voted yes: Kristi Dean, Joseph DeSantis, Roseanne DiMaria, Jennifer Haase, Katherine Lorenzo and Vincent Viviano. Frank Cusumano was absent.

MCC’s annual budget is $135 million, and the current millage comprises 26 percent of the college’s overall operational budget. The money is used in a variety of ways, including for staff salaries, equipment, utilities and more.

In recent weeks, college officials have been meeting with civic groups, municipal leaders and community members to speak to them about the millage renewal.

“The feedback has been positive,” MCC President James Sawyer said. “People realize we are a very important part of the community. The college has always been supported by the community.”

Sawyer added that instead of waiting until 2020, MCC officials decided to bring the proposal to the voters two years earlier as a way of planning ahead.

A mill equates to one dollar in taxes for every $1,000 of taxable value on owned property. The operating millage, if approved and levied, will provide estimated operating revenues to the college of $38 million during the 2018 calendar year, according to the ballot language provided by the Macomb County Clerk’s Office.

Since the 2000 election, the college has been subject to seven Headlee Amendment rollbacks, reducing that millage rate to its current 1.4072 mills. According to college officials, the reduction equates to approximately $1.5 million annually.

The average Macomb County homeowner, for instance, whose home has an average true cash value of $156,783 — and a taxable value of $78,048 — pays $109.83 annually under the current MCC millage.

If voters approve the May 8 renewal and restoration, the new college millage rate will be 1.464 mills and will slightly raise the tax 0.0568 mill. The homeowner with the average true cash value of $156,783 will now pay $114.26 annually under the millage, an increase of $4.43 per year. As another example, a home with a taxable value of $50,000 and a sale price of approximately $100,000 will pay an increase of $3 per year.

If the millage passes, Sawyer said it becomes effective in July 2018 and replaces the current millage until 2038. The millage that passed in 2000 will no longer exist.

If the renewal and restoration does not pass, school officials will have to reduce programs and services for students and/or substantially increase tuition.

On March 26, Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Melanie Davis announced that the chamber’s board of directors voted unanimously to endorse the millage proposal.

“The Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce publicly supports sound initiatives that continue to make Macomb County a desirable place to live, work and play,” Davis said in a prepared statement. “It’s important for us as a business community to support the college in its efforts to restore funding approved by voters in 2000. This revenue is critical to the college’s efforts to connect students to in-demand career pathways and employment in the region. They have gone a long way to helping address our shortage of workers in the skilled trades in Macomb County, and their role in workforce development is a big reason why we are recommending a ‘yes’ vote for the Macomb Community College millage proposal.”

While MCC officials are hopeful that the ballot proposal will pass, not everyone is in favor of it. On April 25, the Macomb County Taxpayers Association, or MCTA, issued a press release encouraging residents to vote against it.

According to the release, MCTA members feel the tax renewal and increase are “irresponsibly combined into one ballot question” and would prefer to see separate tax renewal and increase proposals. Philis DeSaele, MCTA chair, said another factor is the length of the renewal.

“It should be limited to eight years so we can adjust to technology, economic and teaching alternatives,” said DeSaele, of Sterling Heights, a former Macomb County commissioner.

In its press release, the MCTA states that the college doesn’t need a tax increase because new businesses, new business equipment and new homes generate tax dollars. The MCTA also states that the election should be held during an August primary election or a November general election, when most people vote to save the taxpayers money.

For more information about the millage and to view the ballot language, visit www.macomb.edu/millage.