Voters to decide operating millage for Madison District Public Schools

Proposal would not affect homeowners or renters

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 13, 2021

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MADISON HEIGHTS — A proposal on the ballot Aug. 3 asks residents of the Madison District Public Schools to approve the renewal of an operating millage that covers everything from teacher salaries to instructional materials.

If approved, homeowners and renters will not see any increase in taxes. Rather, the proposal will only tax non-homestead properties, such as businesses, who would continue to pay what they’ve been paying already, plus a half-mill extra, for the next 10 years.

The extra half mill restores the district’s tax levy to the maximum 18 mills allowable, and offsets revenue lost due to the state’s Headlee Amendment rollback. School districts typically seek such a renewal once every five years, but in an attempt to simplify things for taxpayers, the Madison school district has decided to go for a full 10 years.

The renewal comes at a time when the district’s current board and superintendent is steering the schools back to good financial health, resulting in the district’s removal from a state watch list after the previous administration nearly exhausted a multimillion-dollar surplus, audit reports show.  

District officials say they’re hopeful residents understand that the millage renewal is both essential to the district’s operations, and will also not cost them anything.

“This is a renewal — it’s an asset we’ve been collecting for decades. This isn’t anything new,” said Cindy Holder, the district’s board president. “We are able to collect the maximum amount but we haven’t been. This will just allow us to collect that little bit extra. And even though the homeowners are the ones who vote on it, it only affects business owners and rental property owners.

“Without this funding, it would be devastating, obviously,” she added. “It’s money that’s necessary to keep our classrooms staffed and equipped. This is fundamental.”

Angel Abdulahad, the superintendent, said that the costs covered by the millage funding include salaries and benefits for employees, purchase services, supplies and materials, and more. Salaries and benefits alone account for 68% of the costs, with the teachers being the largest group.

“This is a normal course of renewal for operating,” Abdulahad said. “Without it, the school district will lose money and will not be able to levy the maximum allowable amount needed for the operation of the district. This will not affect homeowners or people who rent. It’s just a slight increase on what business owners and rental property owners have already been paying.”

Earlier this year, the district celebrated some good news, selling its 2021 refunding bonds for roughly $9.6 million, resulting in interest payment savings of $747,000. The savings represent nearly 8% of the bonds that remain. In addition, the sale of the former Edison Elementary to the charter school Keys Grace Academy will net the district another $1.9 million over 10 years.

Holder previously described the district’s approach.

“Our administrative staff has taken advantage of any and all additional monies available for government COVID funding,” Holder previously said. “Controlling cost is a vital tool in keeping the district in the black compared to previous years. Even with these actions, because of past neglect, we still have some major repairs that need to be addressed. Our position is to find the best way to accomplish this with minimal impact to the taxpayers.”

According to an audit conducted by Plante Moran in 2019, the district had a surplus of nearly $3.3 million in 2012 but was overspending up through the 2019 fiscal year. When a new board and superintendent took power in early 2019, they found the district teetering on the brink of collapse with a deficit of $1.5 million projected for the following year.

Angel Abdulahad, who became superintendent that year, implemented a sweeping series of corrective measures to stave off a deficit that included cutting $1.5 million from the 2019-20 school year budget. Since then, the district has been attempting to bolster its fund balance. This has led to the district being removed from a state watch list that requires districts to have 5% or more of their expenditures in savings. Currently, the district has exceeded that goal, with a fund balance around 10% and growing.

Now officials are hopeful the taxpayers will support the millage renewal at the polls Aug. 3.

“You will really be helping the operations of the district,” Abdulahad said.


What you will see on the ballot
Below is the wording for the operating millage proposal for the Madison District Public Schools, as it will appear on the ballot Aug. 3, according to the Oakland County elections website:

This proposal will allow the school district to continue to levy the statutory rate of not to exceed 18 mills on all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law, required for the school district to receive its revenue per pupil foundation allowance and restores millage lost as a result of the reduction required by the Michigan Constitution of 1963.

Shall the currently authorized millage rate limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law, in Madison District Public Schools, Oakland County, Michigan be renewed by 17.4874 mills ($17.4874 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 10 years, 2022 to 2031, inclusive, and also be increased by .5 mill ($0.50 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 10 years, 2022 to 2031, inclusive, to provide funds for operating purposes; the estimate of the revenue the school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2022 is approximately $2,027,759 (this is a renewal of millage that will expire with the 2021 levy and a restoration of millage lost as a result of the reduction required by the “Headlee” amendment to the Michigan Constitution of 1963)?