Voters approve renewal of 3 western Washtenaw County school district millages by wide margins
Voters in Milan, Chelsea and Dexter school districts each renewed millages that supply a critical source of funding for their respective districts’ operational budget.
According to unofficial results from the Washtenaw County Clerk’s office, voters in Milan approved renewing their millage by a margin of 474 to 128, or 72.7 percent to 27.3 percent.
Residents in the Chelsea School District approved renewal of the millage by a margin of 1,133 to 442, or 71.94 percent to 28.06 percent.
Voters in Dexter Community Schools’ approved renewal of their millage by a vote of 1,450 to 588, or 71.15 percent to 28.85 percent. They also approved a “cushion” millage by a margin of 1,372 to 655, according to the Washtenaw County Clerk's Office.
If voters had rejected the millages, the school districts would have had to make up the funding without help from the state. The money accounts for between 10 and 14 percent of the districts’ operational budgets.
“It’s a small piece of the operational budget, but a small piece that means a lot,” said Milan Area Schools Board President Chuck Bushart.
“As the state struggles, public education is one of the insinuations that has suffered. So to have this millage means we continue to give our kids what they deserve.
“If it didn’t pass, a lot of schools would have had to scratch their heads and say ‘What do we sacrifice and what do we take away from kids and teachers?'”
In Milan, voters were 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.
In Chelsea, voters approved 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.” The 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.
Dexter Community Schools asked voters to pass two proposals. The first will reauthorize 18 mills, and the second will add a 3-mill “cushion” to offset a Headlee rollback. Both will be in place for 20 years from 2014 through 2033. The proposals are expected to generate $4.17 million in their first year, or about 13 percent of the district's budget.
The millages 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.
Dexter Community Schools President Larry Cobler said the millages are important because it is a stable source of funding in a state where uncertainty in funding has a significant impact on districts' abilities to plan.
"This is a statement that our local citizens are making that they want to support education in our communities, and I hope it’s a pretty loud message to the state that it's important to them," he said. "It appears it's not as important to legislators, so maybe they need to pay attention."
Bushart said he has heard from speaking to those in education that community support for public schools is strong and the wide margins by which the millages were approved is evidence of that.
“It’s great to hear that community support is still strong and that’s what it comes down to; people still care about education, the community, kids and supporting them,” he said.