Wayne County voters will decide whether to renew a measure that will provide funding for county schools, such as Harper Woods High School.

Wayne County voters will decide whether to renew a measure that will provide funding for county schools, such as Harper Woods High School.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Wayne County voters to decide renewal of regional enhancement millage

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published October 16, 2020

WAYNE COUNTY — The Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency is getting the word out about the regional enhancement millage.

The organization hosted a press conference Sept. 28 to remind voters that the millage renewal is on the ballot and that renewing it will continue to provide approximately $80 million for school districts in Wayne County.

“There are 33 systems in Wayne County that this will benefit. This is a six-year renewal that will go from 2022 until 2028. It generates about $80 million per year,” explained Randy Liepa, the superintendent of Wayne RESA. “That money gets allocated on a per student basis. Every single dime goes into the schools. This equates to more than $300 per student across Wayne County. … They are receiving that money right now and our goal is to continue that.”

The millage was first passed by a margin of 54% to 46% of Wayne County voters in 2016. It expires after 2021.

“It was passed in 2016,” said Liepa. “It was 2 mills ($2 per every $1,000 of taxable property) for the last four years and this renewal will continue that for an additional six years. This is in addition to the normal (Intermediate School District) Millage that appears on tax bills. That is a tiny millage for operating purposes.”

Monica Merritt, the superintendent of the Plymouth-Canton Community School District, said the regional enhancement millage has allowed her district to make a number of changes in the last four years.

“We’ve been able to reduce class size by one student kindergarten through 12th grade; with such a large district, that costs us $1.5 million annually,” she said. “We couldn’t have done that without the enhancement millage. Additionally, we were able to hire and retain quality teachers, which are the treasure of our school district. We’ve been able to purchase software and technology so we could become a 1-to-1 technology district and we were able to upgrade all of our technology because of these funds. That has become so important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using these funds, we also purchased new, culturally responsive books for our students and libraries. We were able to increase our professional development for our teachers and staff.”

She added that the money also has allowed the district to begin a project to create secure entryways at all of the district’s elementary schools, although this project required additional funds from other sources.

Terry Dangerfield, the superintendent of Lincoln Park Public Schools, said his district, too, would not have been able to serve students nearly as well without these funds.

“Because of the enhancement millage, we’ve been able to make a number of improvements that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise,” he said. “This includes providing enhanced programming, opportunities in career and technical education programs, upgrades to safety protocols, and hiring and retaining qualified staff members to prepare our students academically as well as being able to better meet the social and emotional needs of our students.”

Dangerfield said that the millage money has been spent responsibly and transparently and RESA and its partners will continue to do so if the measure is renewed.

“The Wayne County school districts have been fiscally responsible stewards of the millage funds. The money provided by the millage will continue to be spent wisely and transparently. Every penny from this measure will be distributed on a per student basis to local school districts and public school academies,” he said. “If this is renewed on Nov. 3, this millage will continue to undergo independent audits, and all of the spending will be tracked on public websites so the taxpayers can see their tax dollars are being spent transparently and with accountability.”

Derrick Anderson, a member of the Committee to Renew Wayne County Schools campaign, said the millage gives Wayne County students a lot.

“It’s a renewal. It’s a continuation of the current millage and won’t mean any new taxes,” Anderson said. “It will continue to cost Wayne County homeowners less than $8 per month. The revenue from the millage will benefit 33 local school districts. Those districts then have the flexibility to use these funds to meet the individual needs of their students and communities.”

Liepa said that the money from this millage is necessary.

“(State) school funding systems have not been fixed yet in the state of Michigan, so we think it’s necessary to go back and renew this millage,” he said. “There have been a lot of reports from the last four or five years about Michigan being a state that has underfunded its schools. These types of proposals are key for school districts to continue to provide quality education.”

Educators such as Merritt and Dangerfield said the funding from the regional enhancement millage makes a difference in the educational experience of Wayne County students.

“We need to renew our support for the Wayne County regional enhancement millage,” said Merritt. “Keeping our schools strong is a key part of keeping our community strong. That’s why we need to make sure every Wayne County voter is aware of this proposal on Nov. 3. I encourage every resident to get the facts about this important proposal”

More information on the measure is available at www.resa.net.