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Berkley school millage on ballot for November election

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 1, 2019

BERKLEY — The Berkley School District will have an operating millage on the ballot in the upcoming November election.

The proposal, to be voted on Nov. 5, would allow the district to levy a rate not to exceed 18 mills on “all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law,” according to the ballot language.

In full, the proposal reads, “Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law, in Berkley School District, Oakland County, Michigan, be increased by 3 mills ($3.00 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 3 years, 2020, 2021 and 2022, to provide funds for operating purposes; the estimate of the revenue the school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2020 is approximately $287,700 (this millage is to restore millage lost as a result of the reduction required by the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and will be levied only to the extent necessary to restore that reduction)?”

Currently, the district levies a little over 17 mills, Deputy Superintendent for Finance, Facilities and Operations Larry Gallagher said. If the increase is approved, the millage would be marked at 20, but the district could only levy 18.

Headlee Amendment rollbacks have decreased the millage in recent years. The approval, Gallagher said, would give the district some leeway when more rollbacks happen in the future.

“If it’s 20 and it becomes 19.5, no big deal because it’s above 18,” he said. “Essentially, we’re asking for that as a factor to allow us to stay beyond 18 mills for a couple more years.”

The money coming from the millage goes into the district’s general fund, which pays for teachers’ salaries, textbooks, curriculum support and more.

Steve Lyskawa, a Norup International School teacher and president of the Berkley Education Association, said some people might think it would be a windfall to teachers’ salaries, but “it’s certainly not going to be that at all.”

“We operate under bargaining agreements,” he said. “Our bargaining agreement has been settled, so we’re not expecting any changes with regards to our salary.”

More so, said Lyskawa, the money coming into the general fund will provide opportunities for classroom resources and for students to get more resources that will help their learning.

“In Berkley, we’re all about kids all the time. That’s our No. 1 goal and that’s where the focus should be at all times,” he said. “That’s why as teachers I think we can be happy with the passage of this millage, because we can hopefully see those monies benefiting our students. So it’s not about the teachers in this instance. It’s all about the kids.”