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Posted on Tue, May 7, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

Voters approve renewal of 3 western Washtenaw County school district millages by wide margins

By Tom Perkins

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.


Shawn Letwin

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.

The employee is part of the Chelsea Wellness Foundation is currently being funded by the foundation, but will soon be compensated by monies from 3 school districts (including Dexter). Here is a partial news release...I could not pull the original agreement from the DCS website because the board packets that went back several years to be reviewed by the community now only go back about 2-3 years. Chelsea, Dexter & Manchester school boards and administrators are collaborating to hire a coordinator to oversee development of SR2S plans. The SR2S coordinator will also be responsible to apply for additional funding which may be used for program development or infrastructure like crosswalks with pedestrian lights and connecting sidewalks. The school administrators came to the CWF for funding to get the program started. A grant of $38,500 will allow them to hire a shared, part-time coordinator to make sure all three districts are able to develop a SR2S program. Pat Conlin, chair of the CWF grant committee believes this sort of effort is exactly what's needed to make a difference in the lives of families with young children. "When our leadership works together on things like SR2S it teaches our children about teamwork and tells them health is important." I answered the question posted to me, so how about those other questions/issues that were raised to now be answered? Deflection and not direct addressing of issues is the key MO for Dexter. Part of what makes the Dexter Difference.

Larry Cobler

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

Mr. Letwin - who is the "5 Communities" employee for whom DCS is paying their salary?

Shawn Letwin

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

Cobler had stated..."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." No. The millages are important to maintain the funding source lost from when we were just taxing the homeowners prior to the Headlee amendment to now sharing the revenue source for schools with the non-homeowner tax base and the homeowner tax base. Prior to the Headlee amendment, school districts were routinely passing millages in May (with a minority of people voting just as this election has shown) that caused runaway taxation on homeowners. Cobler then adds..."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." No. This is a statement that a minority of people in the community supported the millage. In the November election for school board trustees (including electing Cobler), there were over 7000 people who voted on DCS school ballots. This election saw only 2000 people going to the polls. What a mandate-not. To then have Cobler make a statement on how the vote reflects on the community as caring and the legislators not caring is very disingenuous. But par for the course considering the source. It would have been very nice for Cobler to state why the Dexter board: 1-submitted millages that went from 10 years to now 20 years (unlike Chelsea being at 7) and 2-why this millage was not submitted in the November election and would have cost the district ZERO dollars. But when Cobler takes his role in 5 Communities and his role as DCS Board President and secures the commitment for DCS to take on paying the salary for a 5 Community employee; who is the one who doesn't care about supporting education?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:30 a.m.

If people are too lazy or uninformed to get out and vote in May, I don't feel sorry for them if their taxes go up.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

I don't understand.... I thought that with the passage of Proposal A, individual communities were no longer able to float millages for operational expenses, only capital?


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

A2anon - PropA allows 18 mils of local taxation on non-homestead property at the local level. It also allows a local override of the Headlee amendment. This is for operations, it is routinely renewed by most districts.

A Voice of Reason

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

Yep, no one turns out to vote when it does not impact your taxes. A new county-enhancement millage would. This is not a fair article because it should include turnout.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

Typical May election light voter turnout for a spring renewal election. If there had been other issues on the ballot, turn out would have been much heavier. I am pleased to see the renewals. This is a very good thing. Coming up in 2014: 1) New county wide millage for the bond to cover county promises to employees for retirement and medical costs in retirement 2) New library bond to destroy the existing downtown library and build a new slightly bigger one 3) New country wide education enhancement millage 4) New internet sales tax (it passed the US Senate yesterday) 5) New increased fees for automobile registration and license renewal 6) Increased taxes on motor fuels (gas and diesel) 7) Increased costs for health care insurance (the first fees have already been announced by the Federal government, stay tuned for more). So it is good that these got done before the rest of this starts to hit people's paychecks.


Wed, May 8, 2013 : 10:55 a.m.

Congratulations to those communities who have endorsed they value education as much as ever. However, I suggest to the education leaders throughout the county that strong support for millage renewals is NOT the same thing as strong support for additional taxes or millages, even ones targeted to be spent solely on education.

Basic Bob

Wed, May 8, 2013 : 10:53 a.m.

What was the turnout? It makes it hard to generate interest when the millage does not directly impact homeowners' property tax values. Some people like it better that way.