The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education has approved a non-homestead millage restoration proposal for the ballot in May.

The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education has approved a non-homestead millage restoration proposal for the ballot in May.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Non-homestead millage restoration proposal to appear on May ballot

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 8, 2021


WEST BLOOMFIELD — After rousing general and primary elections in recent months, voters in the West Bloomfield area will have another decision to make in May.

The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education unanimously approved a 2-mill non-homestead millage restoration proposal during a regular meeting Jan. 25.

The proposal will appear on a May 4 ballot this year.

According to a press release, the proposal seeks a restoration of the non-homestead tax rate that was approved by voters in 2014.

Since that approval, the non-homestead millage has been rolled back because of reductions required by the Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

If approved, the proposal would allow for the non-homestead tax rate to be raised from its current, rolled-back rate of 16.9544 mills to 18.9544 mills.

“We are asking the voters on May 4 to restore our operating millage to 18 mills,” said Kyle Anderson, who is the district’s assistant superintendent for business and operations. “That was last approved by voters in 2014, and over the last six years, it’s been reduced by what’s called a Headlee rollback, to the point where it’s just over 1 mill below 18 mills. In order to receive our full state foundation allowance, we must levy 18 mills on non-homestead properties.”

Anderson shared an explanation of the Headlee Amendment.

“The Headlee Amendment requires local governments, including schools, to reduce their millage rates if taxable values go up higher than the rate of inflation,” he said. “That’s called a Headlee rollback, and that’s occurred in our district for the last six years. It’s an annual calculation, and it’s reduced our millage to 16.9544 mills.”

WBSD Superintendent Gerald Hill shared his perspective of the consequences of the rollbacks in a press release.

“Rollbacks mean a reduction in revenue earmarked for student instruction,” Hill stated. “These rollbacks have shorted the school district’s operating budget by more than $1.3 million over the last six years.”

By law, only 18 mills can be levied on non-homestead property. However, if approved, the non-homestead tax rate would increase to 18.9544 mills.

WBSD’s release stated that “while the school district can only levy 18 mills on non-homestead property, the millage above 18 mills will protect the school district from future rollbacks.”

Anderson offered a further explanation of what he said is called the future Headlee hedge.

“Our current millage rate expires in 2024,” he said. “What we’re doing is restoring back to 18, and then we have a little left over. Maybe we need it, maybe we don’t for the remaining four years, until our millage expires. … By law, we have to kind (of) write the ballot language to meet the law, but we can’t levy more than 18 mills.”

Despite it being a non-homestead millage restoration proposal, all registered voters residing in the school district can vote on it.

“Anyone who owns a primary residence in our school district, this has no effect on their taxes; they’re simply voting on it,” Anderson said. “A non-homestead property is commercial, business, vacant land, rental properties — things like that.”

Those who would be affected by an increase in the operating millage are individuals who own a home in the school district that is not their primary residence, as well as businesses.

The increase they could see depends on the taxable value of their respective properties.

One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

Anderson discussed some of the specifics of the district’s operating budget.

“This is operating revenue, so it goes into our general operating fund,” he said. “That means, for all of our programming, our teachers’ salaries, textbooks — everything that it takes to operate our school district.”

Anderson shared his take on the potential effect of the proposal not being approved by voters.

“The first six years of this current operating millage cycle, we had these Headlee rollbacks that amounted to less revenue of $1.3 million,” he said. “Next year, when this takes effect, we anticipate that this would mean $691,000 of revenue to our district. So if it doesn’t pass, we would have $691,000 less revenue in our operating budget.”

If the proposal passes, Anderson discussed when the district would benefit from the increased revenue.

“We’re a 100% summer levy, so it would be the July levy — July, 2022,” he said. “If approved, those 18 mills would be included in the July, 2022, levy.”