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Voters will decide next week whether to approve a replacement operating millage for Macomb County Community College that funds roughly a quarter of the school’s budget.

The 20-year, 1.464-mill issue is one of three money requests before voters in Macomb County on the May 8 ballot.

The Roseville Community Schools is seeking a 20-year, $59.4 million bond issue for facility, equipment, technology and transportation upgrades. The Van Dyke Public Schools is requesting a 10-year, 1-mill sinking fund that would raise $354,000 a year for building, security and technology improvements.

The MCC proposal would combine technology and operating millages originally passed in 2000 and restore the effective rate that was assessed before seven Headlee rollbacks reduced the millage rate to 1.4072 mills.

If voters approve, the increase would raise an extra $1.5 million a year for the college while increasing the taxes on a $100,000 home by about $3 a year.

The millage raises about $36 million a year for MCC and is the school’s second-largest funding source after tuition and fees. The college’s 2017-18 budget is $135.4 million.

“The operating millage, in my opinion, is essential to Macomb Community College, but also more important to our students, their welfare and giving them a positive experience,” said Jennifer Haase, chairwoman of the MCC Board of Trustees. “It’s absolutely vital to ensuring that the college can continue providing up-to-date programs and technology that they can expect to see in the workforce when they leave us.”

Haase said even with the proposed increase, Macomb’s millage rate will remain the third-lowest among Michigan’s 28 community colleges.

“What’s great about Macomb is that our tuition is a quarter less than any Michigan public university, and about 80 percent of students leave debt-free,” she said. “Voters know an investment such as this pays off in helping our county residents and Metro Detroit community go to work and get good jobs and contribute to our future.”

MCC President James Sawyer IV said the university could not sit back and wait for the 2000 millages to expire in 2020.

“We go to the county every 20 years, but it couldn’t wait and we’re going in with a long-term perspective,” Sawyer said. “This college is critical to 24,000 students annually and is an important community resource. By having this, we’re able to keep tuition affordable.”

For 2017-18, MCC’s tuition for a full-time, in-district student is $2,928.

Before Katherine Lorenzo was elected secretary of the trustees, she was a full-time faculty member of the college for 35 years and said she gained a perspective that many don’t understand.

“If someone calls any emergency services, chances are it’s a Macomb graduate,” she said. “When you ask someone to give $3, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t do it. The money isn’t coming from Lansing anymore and it isn’t fair to ask the students to pay more in tuition. The college is a safety net, a saving grace they desperately need.”

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter:@SarahRahal_

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