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School millage proposal, sinking fund pass Nov. 5

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 12, 2019

GROSSE POINTES — Voters in the Grosse Pointe Public School System passed a millage proposal and a sinking fund proposal Nov. 5.

According to unofficial results from the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, the district’s operating millage restoration proposal received 10,892 “yes” votes and 4,328 “no” votes. The sinking fund proposal passed with 10,824 “yes” votes and 4,413 “no” votes.

School officials said that both proposals are not new taxes but are what taxpayers already have been paying. Both ballot proposals combined make up approximately 25% of the district’s budget.

“On behalf of the students and staff, I want to thank our community for supporting our public schools. November 5th, both millages passed with 71% of voters saying yes. Yes, they do believe we have made difficult choices. No, that does not mean they agree with all of them. But, they see what 25% of the budget means for our schools,” district Superintendent Gary Niehaus said in a letter to the editor.  

“That is what sets us apart. That is why families move here. With the bond, operating millage and sinking fund in place, we can now work on our future with confidence,” Niehaus continued. “We can focus on successfully merging school communities. We can maintain our beautiful buildings that house the programs and people that make this the #One GP we have come to know. Thank you to all those who worked on this initiative. Thank you for those that voted. You protected our schools, our community, our children, and our future.”

The operating millage restoration is also an extension, and it has two components: a homestead millage and a nonhomestead operating millage first approved by voters in 1995.

As per district officials, the homestead millage (7.8763 mills) is levied on primary residences and allows the school district to receive its full funding allowance from the state. The homestead millage is what homeowners pay on their principal residences.

The other component is the nonhomestead millage (18 mills) and is levied primarily on rental properties and businesses. The state requires school districts to levy this millage to ensure that they receive their full state aid funding. Nineteen mills were requested so that with Headlee Amendment rollbacks of up to 1 mill, the full 18 mills can be levied.

According to the Michigan Municipal League, Headlee requires a local unit of government to reduce its millage when annual growth on existing property is greater than the rate of inflation.

The Grosse Pointe operating millage restoration and extension is expected to raise approximately $22,283,000 in its first year. Revenue from the millage funds program costs, textbooks, technology tools and other instructional materials for students.

The second millage proposal is a 1-mill, five-year sinking fund proposal that was first approved by voters in 2004 and expired with the 2019 levy. Now that it has been approved, the sinking fund will allow the school district to use sinking fund proceeds for expanded purposes, including security and technology equipment.

The sinking fund proposal will generate approximately $3 million of the $10 million annual cost to maintain GPPSS school facilities. The sinking fund is used to keep school grounds and buildings safe and in good condition. It is not intended to finance major projects.

A sinking fund cannot be used for staff salaries and benefits. A sinking fund is a pay-as-you-go method of generating tax revenue. Sinking funds are usually five to 10 years in length and are capped by law at 3 mills.

During the last five years, sinking fund dollars have paid for many district projects, including replacing roofs, boilers, flooring, windows, restrooms, concrete and tuckpointing.

In November 2018, voters passed a  $111,040,000 bond referendum to fund building enhancements, security improvements and technology updates throughout the district.