Van Dyke, Fitzgerald school districts millage proposals on ballot

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published October 25, 2019

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WARREN — Two local school districts have millage proposals on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Fitzgerald Public Schools has two ballot proposals: The first is an operating millage restoration proposal, and the second is a building and site sinking fund millage renewal proposal.

Van Dyke Public Schools has one ballot item: a replacement operating millage proposal.

According to Fitzgerald Superintendent Laurie Fournier, both of the district’s proposals are renewals. The operating millage restoration does not apply to the average homeowner. The tax is levied on businesses and second homes in the city.

The Fitzgerald operating millage restoration proposal, if approved, would allow the district to continue to levy the number of operating mills required for the school district to receive revenues at the full per-pupil foundation allowance permitted by the state. The proposal is a request to renew 19.5 mills, with 18 mills ($18 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) being the maximum allowable levy, is a restoration of millage lost as a result of the reduction required by the Michigan Constitution.

It’s for a period of 10 years, 2020 to 2029, inclusive, with 0.2100 mills of the above 19.5 mills being a restoration of millage lost as a result of the reduction required by the state constitution. If approved and levied, the proposal would provide estimated revenues to the school district of $4,198,000 during the 2020 calendar year, to be used for general operating purposes.

“The maximum allowable levy is 18 mills. Most Michigan school districts seek 19.5 mills, but only levy 18,” Fournier said in an email. “They seek approval of 19.5 to protect the school district from Constitutional rollbacks which can jeopardize the full amount of per student funding allowed by the State.”

If approved, funds raised will be used for general operating expenses. If it is not approved, the district’s “budget will have to be reduced by $4.198 million, placing many educational programs in jeopardy,” the superintendent said.

Revenue from Fitzgerald’s building and site sinking fund millage, if approved, would be used to repair school buildings, improve school security and upgrade instructional technology. According to Fournier, the maximum allowable levy, under the law that went into effect in November 2016, is a 3.0 mill cap.

The proposal is a request to renew 1.4205 mills ($1.42 per $1,000 of taxable value) of the voter-approved building and site sinking fund millage that will otherwise expire on June 30, 2020. Proceeds cannot be used for teacher, administrator or employee salaries, maintenance or other operating expenses.

The ballot will ask voters “Shall the Fitzgerald Public Schools be authorized to levy 1.5 mills ($1.50 per $1,000 of taxable value), with 1.4205 mills ($1.42 per $1,000 of taxable value) being the maximum allowable levy, for a period of seven years, from 2020 through and including 2026 to create a building and site sinking fund for the purpose of the construction or repair of school buildings or any other purpose allowed under Michigan law?” If approved and levied, the millage would provide estimated revenues to Fitzgerald of approximately $540,000 during the 2020 calendar year.

The Van Dyke replacement operating millage proposal, if passed, would replace, restore and extend the authority of the school district to levy the statutory limit of 18 mills on nonhomestead property (principally industrial and commercial real property and residential rental property) which currently expires with the school district’s 2022 tax levy. If approved, it also would allow the school district to continue to levy the statutory limit of 18 mills on nonhomestead property in the event of future Headlee rollbacks of up to 3 mills.

VDPS Superintendent Piper Bognar said the replacement operating millage was first approved in the fall of 2013. Since that time, there has been Headlee rollback, which decreased the 18 mills to 17.7346 mills; therefore the district is not receiving the full amount of the operating millage. According to school officials, there will be no additional costs to homeowners or renters if approved. If approved, it would allow Van Dyke to continue to receive revenues at the full per-pupil foundation allowance permitted by the state.

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 passing of the non-homestead replacement operating millage proposal in VDPS Nov. 5 will allow the district to ensure that the full 18 mills are collected. Approval also would allow Van Dyke to extend the current 18 mills that are set to expire after the 2022 levy, with a term through 2038.

“If the millage does not pass, the district will continue to lose tens of thousands of dollars per year at minimum,” as per the district’s fact sheet. “In fiscal year 2019 alone, the district lost $74,000.”

The ballot language will ask if the limitation on the total amount of taxes may be assessed against all property, except principal residences and other property exempted by law, situated within the Van Dyke,  be increased, in the amount of 21 mills with 18 mills being the maximum allowable levy ($18 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation.)

The replacement operating millage would be for a period of 20 years, 2019 to 2038. It would be inclusive with 17.7346 mills of the above 21 mills being a replacement of authorized millage which will otherwise expire Dec. 31, 2022, and 0.2654 mills of the above 21 mills being a restoration of millage lost as a result of the reduction required by the Michigan Constitution.

If approved and levied, the replacement operating millage proposal would provide estimated revenues to the school district of $4,703,191 during the 2019 calendar year to be used for general operating purposes.

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