Ypsilanti-Willow Run consolidation proposal, 18 mills win voters approval
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
Voters have approved merging the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts.
The "yes" vote on two ballot proposals — the consolidation question and the corresponding 18-mill non-homestead millage to fund the new district — essentially dissolves the two longstanding public school districts to create a new, unnamed district with a to-be-decided mascot, building plan and leaders.
In the Ypsilanti school district, 9,846 or 61.65 percent of voters supported the consolidation, while 6,126 people or 38.35 percent were opposed. On the 18-mill tax levy, 8,243 voters or 54.21 percent said "yes," while 6,964 voters or 45.79 percent said "no."
In the Willow Run school district, 4,650 people or 61.41 percent of voters were for the merger proposal and 2,922 people, 38.59 percent, against it. The non-homestead millage, squeaked by, winning voters approval by just 127 votes (1.76 percent): 3,692 people said "yes" (50.88 percent), while 3,565 (49.12 percent) said "no."
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
Supporters cheered as they received favorable updates from the city and township clerks throughout the night.
Current Willow Run school board President Don Garrett said he thinks the election went "pretty much like we planned."
"Once the city and the community of Ypsilanti started out finding the real reasons we needed to consolidate, many of the no votes were being swayed to yes votes," he said. "It was good to see our hard work pay off in the results."
In total, residents in six precincts in both Ypsilanti and Superior townships could weigh in on the consolidation proposals in the Willow Run school district. In the Ypsilanti school district, voters from 11 precincts in Ypsilanti Township, two precincts in Superior Township and three wards in the city counted toward the merger decision.
Garrett, who was a graduate of Willow Run High School, said prior to serving on the school board and seeing firsthand the struggles, he would have felt a little bittersweet about the election and the merger of the school districts.
"But from the inside, you can't ignore this is what's good for kids," he said. "And when you think about that the Willow Run and Ypsi names lose their importance."
Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin echoed Garrett's sentiments, adding he is excited about the prospect and opportunity for the students in the greater Ypsilanti community. He called the election results "huge" for the area."Anytime you’re investing in a community, anytime you’re talking about the growth and health ... of the community, schools play a part in the wellbeing of it," Martin said. "Without a healthy, strong, vibrant school system for kids, I think you really run the risk of having communities you’re just not proud of.
"It's going to be a lot of work and a challenge, but it's what the kids deserve."
State Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, joined school leaders at the Tower Inn for a quick appearance shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Rutledge has been one of the biggest supporters of the Ypsilanti-Willow Run merger from the beginning, as both a local resident and state official.
Rutledge also was up for re-election Tuesday.
In September, Rutledge introduced a bill in the State House of Representatives calling for a three-year moratorium on new charter schools in districts that have consolidated. He recently spoke out against the EMU Board of Regents, chastising them for approving a new charter for the 2013-14 school year in the current Willow Run school district.
"Both of these school districts (Ypsilanti and Willow Run) have now gone to great lengths to get this issue of consolidation before voters, and it really seemed like they (the EMU Board of Regents) were trying to sneak this in before the election," Rutledge said in an interview with AnnArbor.com. "It seemed really disingenuous."
In his election-night pep talk to Ypsi-Willow Run supporters, Rutledge praised both districts' leadership in the merger initiative.
"The way that these two superintendents and boards came together and looked at this and arrived at a point where they could put this in front of voters, I think that's huge," he said. "The other thing that impressed me is there was no organized opposition. And I think there was no opposition because of the environment of the community itself and the ability to arrive at the conclusion that this needed to be (decided)," Rutledge said.
Rutledge said moving forward, if the consolidation effort passes, the two districts must unite to put the creation of a new model at the forefront.
"If that happens we're going to attract a lot of people," he said.
Gov. Rick Synder couldn't vote in the Ypsilanti and Willow Run consolidation measure, but he did express praise for the efforts of those behind the proposal Tuesday.
“I’m pleased to see that people are looking at those kinds of opportunities,” Snyder said while voting at his precinct in Ann Arbor Election Day.
“I leave it up to the citizens to decide, but I’ve been a big advocate of sharing and services consolidation. I haven’t been pushing legal consolidation, but it’s a precursor to that to say if you can work through those issues, there might be better way to do things.”
Ypsilanti reporter Katrease Stafford contributed to this report.