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Posted on Wed, May 1, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Millage renewals for Dexter, Chelsea and Milan schools on May 7 ballot

By Erica Hobbs

On May 7, Washtenaw County voters will be asked to renew millages for several county schools, including districts in Chelsea, Dexter and Milan.

The districts are asking voters to renew millages that will generate funds for each of the district’s general operating budgets. The millages, all roughly 18 mills, will be levied on non-homestead property, including industrial, commercial and some agriculture property, as well as “second homes,” but does not tax a family’s primary residence. Official ballot language can be found on the Washtenaw County website.


Dexter is among districts asking voters to renew expiring school millages. Dexter High School is pictured in this file photo.

“This was a tax put in place when Proposal A was passed [in 1994],” said Bryan Girbach, superintendent of the Milan Area School District. “It’s something the state assumes every district does pass, because if you don’t pass it they don’t make up the funds. It’s part of the general operating fund they assume you are receiving.”

Proposal A changed the state’s tax laws in 1994, and among other things, required districts to levy an 18-mill tax on non-homestead property in their district to receive full funding, which must be approved by local voters.

In Milan, voters will be asked to renew a millage of 17.94 mills for 20 years from 2014-2033. The millage is expected to generate about $2 million per year, about 10 percent of the district’s budget.

An FAQ sheet on the millage provided by Milan Area Schools states that if the millage doesn’t pass, the district will be forced to reduce or cut programs to offset the loss, but Milan Board of Education President Chuck Bushart said the board hasn’t discussed what cuts would be made if the millage fails.

“Bottom line, kids come first in our community and the renewal of this millage is critical to our kids’ education,” he said.

In Chelsea, voters will be asked to authorize a millage of 19.51 mills, including the 18 mills recommended by the state to receive full funding plus 1.51 mills to offset any “Headlee rollback.” “Headlee rollbacks” occur when tax rates are reduced because property values are increasing faster than the rate of inflation. The inclusion of the additional 1.51 mills would allow the district to override the amendment to capture any lost funds.

The millage will renew 16.78 mills for seven years for 2014 through 2020 and an additional 2.83 mills for six years, from 2015 through 2020. It is expected to generate $3.5 million in its first year, about 14 percent of the school's budget.

Chelsea School District Superintendent Andrew Ingall said the millage is different than sinking funds, bond proposals or supplemental millages that support specific projects, because it directly affects the district's operating budget.

He said the district has already been reducing its budget in the past few years and a failure to pass the millage would result in a further budget reduction of 15 percent.

“We'd have to start some real serious conversations about what we're not going to do,” he said.

Dexter Community Schools is asking voters to pass two proposals. The first would reauthorize 18 mills, and the second would add a 3-mill “cushion” to offset a Headlee rollback. Both would be for 20 years from 2014 through 2033. The proposals are expected to generate $4.17 million in their first year, about 13 percent of the school's budget.

An FAQ sheet on the millage states that the district would be forced to reduce or cut programs to offset a loss of the millage, but Interim Superintendent Dennis Desmarais said that he would expect any district that doesn’t have the millage pass to put it up for vote again in the November election.

“However, significant cuts in personnel and programs would have to take place before the start of the 2013-2014 school year,” he said.

Plymouth-Canton Community Schools in Wayne County is also issuing a bond proposal to borrow $114.4 million for school facilities. The bond would be used to build a new middle school to replace Central Middle School, upgrade the district’s other schools, improve technology and replace older school buses.

Erica Hobbs is a freelance reporter. Contact the news desk at


Chris Gordon

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

Please join me in voting YES on both the Non-Homestead Millage Reauthorization and Non-Homestead Millage "Cushion" Proposals for Dexter Community Schools on Tuesday, May 7. These proposals are critical for the continued operations of our schools in the next fiscal year. You can find your polling place and specific ballot proposal language at the Michigan Voter Information Center

Shawn Letwin

Sun, May 5, 2013 : 12:31 a.m.

Dexter- Why should cuts have to happen if it doesn't pass now, but are passed as 10 yr millages this fall? Taxation on our community for TWENTY years is a burden to our local economy; especially when coupled with the uncertainty of how funding will be done in another 5 or 10 years. We should expect a turn around in the Michigan economy by then and the funding formula stabilized. But to lock in for TWENTY years? Last June when the budget was approved, we were projected to have 1 MILLION more in expenses than revenue. NO CUTS were made 3 months before the school year. How? The budget was amended in November with expenses over revenue increased to almost 2 MILLION but we saw NO CUTS. How? The expenses over revenue will be 2.25 million next year...NO cuts (otherwise layoff notices would have gone out). But if we don't pass the millages now, yet pass them in the fall, we should expect cuts? Current millages provide funding till 12/31/13. Two fiscally responsible millages for 10 yrs (when passed this fall) will start 1/1/14 with no interruption of funding to the classroom. We borrow millions EVERY year to cover payroll because we don't have the money in the bank and then we pay it back later (plus interest). But if we don't pass 2 TWENTY year millages, we are threatened with catastrophic cuts. Makes no sense. Made no sense to not have this election done last fall and take ZERO classroom dollars away. Every $ is critical and should not be spent unnecessarily. Budgets are routinely approved in June with no firm number of what the state would give (plus the final student count) until Nov. or even later. Ignore the vote "yes" rhetoric centered on creating fear, filled with threats and ultimatums. Vote NO now; vote Yes in the fall.