Birmingham school millage up for renewal next month

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 19, 2016

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BIRMINGHAM — Birmingham voters will be casting their ballots Tuesday, Nov. 8, on one of the community’s most important segments: its schools.

The measure in question is the possible renewal of a millage that provides a significant amount of the funding for the Birmingham  Public Schools district.

The current millage, which is virtually identical to the one the public is being asked to vote on this November, expires in December. If approved, the renewal will last for five years and will expire in 2021.

“This is a community with a proud tradition of excellent support for its schools,” said Birmingham Superintendent Daniel Nerad. “This millage renewal will allow us to continue to provide all the services we have for our students.”

The ballot measure asks voters if they approve a levy of up to 10.9236 mills — or just over $10.92 for every $1,000 of taxable property value per year — on nonresidential properties, and 8.4951 mills — or just over $8.49 for every $1,000 of taxable property value per year — on residential properties. On a home worth $200,000, this would amount to $1,699.02 per year if levied in full.

“This is just a standard renewal,” said Marcia Wilkinson, the district’s director of communication and family engagement. “It’s just to maintain the level of funding we currently have and is crucial to maintain the district and everything it does.”

Nerud and his fellow educators say the money is more than merely worth it — it is a necessary investment in children and the future of the community.

“This renewal will provide 38 percent of the district’s budget, which amounts to about $43 million per school year,” explained Nerad. “This is a continuation of a tax already in place, and is not an increase or addition. The tax rate for residents will stay the same.”

A community meeting took place Oct. 13 at the district administration building to discuss the issue. Members of the community got a chance to ask any questions they had about the measure, although attendance was low, and those who did attend seemed to be, by and large, in support of the renewal. One of them was Gary Chapnick, a father of two children who attend the district who is voting “yes” on the measure.

“I’m one of three people co-chairing the advocacy group which supports the millage renewal,” said Chapnick. “I’m a graduate of Groves High School and I live here in the district. Ensuring this renewal passes is a point of pride in the district, and it’s good for all of us here, including families with kids like mine.”

The district also has posted answers to some frequently asked questions about the renewal on the district’s webpage and mailed out information in its “In Touch” newsletter. A second mailing going to all homes in the district also will be mailed out in late October with additional information.

The district has not received any direct opposition to the measure, and Nerud said Birmingham has traditionally been very supportive of the school district, but he knows he can’t assume everyone will support the measure or enter the polls with a full understanding of what it is.

“This will let us continue to educate children and prepare them for the future,” remarked Nerad. “Without this funding, we would have significantly larger class sizes and a loss of most, if not all, of our programs. This proposal will be toward the end of people’s ballots, and we know they have a lot to vote on this year, but we hope it doesn’t it get lost or forgotten. It affects so much.”