WB Board of Education supports Proposal 1

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott, Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published April 16, 2015


WEST BLOOMFIELD/TROY — The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education adopted a resolution in support of Proposal 1 at the board meeting March 23.

Six of the seven members signed the resolution. Nelson Hersh was not present for the meeting.

Superintendent Gerald Hill addressed the board and said Proposal 1 would affect the West Bloomfield School District by providing safer roads for buses and students who drive, as well as providing constitutional protection for the School Aid Fund. The resolution is titled Additional Funding for Michigan Schools and Protections of the School Aid Fund.

“(Proposal 1)  will direct 100 percent of school fund revenue to K-12 schools and community colleges,” Hill said.  “This is important because one of the recurring trends over the past few years has been the usage of school aid funds for four-year universities. Many people believe this wasn’t the intent of Proposal A; yet in Lansing, they haven’t followed through on that intent.” 

Proposal A, also known as the School Finance Reform Act, was passed in 1994.

On May 5, voters will be asked to decide on a proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6 percent to 7 percent; increase the gas/diesel fuel tax to adjust for inflation; increase vehicle registration fees; and eliminate the sales/use tax on gas and diesel fuel to raise revenue for roads, transportation projects and the School Aid Fund. Proposal 1 would also expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.

Hill said increasing the sales tax would generate money for the roads, but also an additional $300 million for the School Aid Fund.

“That’s equivalent to $200 per pupil, but there’s no guarantee from Gov. (Rick) Snyder or the Legislature in the ballot language that this additional revenue will go into the pupil foundation grant, but it will go into the school aid plan,” Hill said.

Hill said there is no plan B if Proposal 1 does not pass, and he is concerned that — based on past actions by the Legislature using School Aid Fund money to pay off debts — the Legislature will use money from the School Aid Fund to fix the roads.

“I think the precedent set is clear to me. … If this doesn’t pass, we’re going to have a smaller School Aid Fund.

“We’re encouraging voters to learn the facts, to vote on May 5, 2015,” Hill said.

A forum was held at the Troy Community Center on March 25 on the pros and cons of Proposal 1, which moderator Nolan Finley, Detroit News editorial page editor, described as “one of the most complex ballot proposals put before voters in a long time.”

“We all agree the roads are god-awful,” Finley said. “The great disagreement is how to fix it. This should have been done in the Legislature last year.”

A four-member panel answered questions put to them by attendees and Finley. The Oakland County Republican Party sponsored the forum.

Gary Piotrowicz, deputy managing director and county highway engineer for the Road Commission for Oakland County; and Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber, represented the pro side.

Paul Mitchell, chairman of the Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals; and Tom McMillin, chairman of Concerned Taxpayers of Michigan and former state representative for the 45th District, presented opposition to the proposal.

Piotrowicz said that for the past 30 years, Michigan has been in the bottom 10 states in per capita funding for roads.

“This is what you get,” he said. “The longer we wait, the worse it gets and the more it will cost to fix them. There’s no plan B. There’s nothing else on the governor’s desk — nothing new.”

He said that if the proposal passes, Oakland County would get $41 million per year for roads.

“When this bill goes through, you will see a fix,” he said.

Mitchell said that of the $2 billion that would be raised by the tax increase, $700,000 would be unrelated to fixing roads.

“We’re asking voters to vote ‘no’ and call state legislators and tell them to fix the roads,” he said.

He said the first step would be to efficiently and effectively use tax dollars to reflect the priorities of the voters.

“They just went to a tax increase (to fix the problem),” Mitchell said. “Don’t accept a bad deal.”

Williams said that “there is no such thing as a free lunch. It’s a safety and economic issue. A ‘yes’ vote is vital for economic competitiveness. The Legislature has failed to solve this problem.”

“This proposal looks cobbled together at the last minute,” McMillan said. “A family of four will spend $800 per year (in additional taxes),” he said.

He said that if the proposal doesn’t pass, “you’re going to see the legislators do their jobs. The Legislature is going to have to address this May 6. Are we going to buy the scare tactics? If it works, they’ll do it again. I’m confident if people want to get re-elected, they’ll find the money.”

“Previous legislators have had all kinds of time to deal with it,” Piotrowicz said. “I don’t see any difference. This is our best shot to get this done. Good things will happen from this. We did not ask for a tax increase; we said, ‘This is how much we need.’ I haven’t seen it. It hasn’t been there. I don’t care where the money comes from. The representatives in the House and Senate couldn’t get it done. Simple decisions are not happening.”

“It’s not a solution anyone would have crafted, but it’s the only solution,” Williams added.

He said that business owners want to be in close proximity to freeways and Class A roads.

“We bring business owners in, and they don’t have to go far to see how bad they are,” he said of the roads.