Utica Community Schools board puts 2 proposals on May 2 ballot

By: Kara Szymanski | C&G Newspapers | Published February 22, 2023


SHELBY TOWNSHIP/UTICA/STERLING HEIGHTS — The Utica Community Schools Board of Education recently unanimously voted to ask residents to consider a $550 million bond proposal and a non-homestead millage proposal in the May 2 election.

The district is calling the $550 million bond proposal the “No Tax-Rate Increase Facilities Bond Proposal.” It would fund projects at all 40 of the district’s facilities.

The projects would include security upgrades, parking lot redesigns and or repaving, new playground equipment and playground surfaces, building infrastructure improvements, bus replacements, restroom renovations, technology purchases, expanded career and technical education academies, improved athletic fields and stadium renovations at all high schools, upgraded auditoriums, and new early childhood centers at the north and south ends of the district.

The proposal’s ballot language says that the debt millage required to retire all bonds outstanding and proposed is expected to remain at or below 3.5 mills.

“The estimated millage that will be levied to pay the proposed bonds in the first year is 1.52 mills (which is equal to $1.52 per $1,000 of taxable value) for a -0- mill net increase over the annual debt millage levied in 2022, and the estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire each series of bonds is 2.08 mills ($2.08 per $1,000 of taxable value), and the maximum number of years any series of bonds may be outstanding, exclusive of refunding, is not more than 20 years,” the ballot language reads.

The 18-mill non-homestead replacement millage will generate approximately $41.2 million for the 2023-24 school year. The state of Michigan requires all school districts to levy 18 mills on non-homestead property in order to receive their full shares of state aid. The 18 mills are paid on second homes, rental properties, businesses and vacant land.

UCS voters have approved the non-homestead millage before. The proposal on the ballot seeks to offset Headlee Amendment rollbacks that have reduced what the district can collect from 18 mills to 16.75 mills. Under Headlee, if the assessed value of a local taxing jurisdiction increases by more than the inflation rate, the maximum property tax millage must be reduced so that the local jurisdiction’s total taxable property brings in the same gross revenue as adjusted for inflation.

The non-homestead millage proposal’s language on the ballot May 2 asks to increase the levy to 20 mills with 18 mills being the maximum allowable levy for a period of 20 years through 2042. The district said that the additional unlevied 2 mills will offset future rollbacks of the 18-mill levy.

Utica Community Schools Superintendent Robert Monroe said the proposals will benefit the community.

“The safety and success proposals presented for voter consideration will enhance safety, protect our community’s long-term investments in its schools, allow our district to receive its full portion of State Aid, and further a positive learning environment for our students. The proposals are structured in a fiscally responsible way that allows the school district to move forward while creating important financial stability for our schools,” he said via.

Mike Austerman, a parent of two Utica Community Schools graduates and a longtime Stevenson High School band booster, said the proposals will help protect the community and enhance property values.

“The quality of our school district impacts every member of our community. These proposals will protect and enhance property values, keep our kids and staff safe and provide our teachers the tools and resources they need to support student success. In addition, these proposals will have zero impact on a homeowner’s property taxes,” he said in an email.

For more information on the proposals, visit uticak12.org/domain/3376.