Detroit area voters to consider school millages Tuesday

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the amount the Chippewa Valley Schools millage would cost a resident.

Voters in 10 Metro Detroit school districts will vote Tuesday on millage proposals for new buildings, buses and facility improvements.

The biggest proposal on ballots would result in lower taxes for residents in the West Bloomfield School District, where officials are requesting a 20-year, $120 million bond proposal to build a middle school, purchase new buses and improve facilities.

The district’s current millage rate of 7.5 mills on its debt would decrease to 7 mills if the bond proposition is approved, according to William Mull, assistant superintendent of business. If voters reject the proposal, their tax rate will drop to 5.9 mills.

The owner of a home worth $200,000 would pay $700 annually in property taxes if the proposal passes, down from a current rate of $750, officials said. If the millage is rejected, the homeowner’s annual tax bill would drop to around $590.

“There’s no easy way to ask your electorate to borrow money, but we like to think that we’ve been strategic in doing it at the most advantageous time possible,” Mull said. “We have favorable interest rates, which is a general condition of a rebounding economy, and we’ve got previous bonded debt that is coming off the books that we can replace at a lower cost.”

The West Bloomfield bond proposition would finance the consolidation of Orchard Lake and Abbott middle schools into a $59 million building to be built behind Orchard Lake, officials said. Orchard Lake would be demolished and Abbott Middle School would either be demolished or repurposed.

Other proposed improvements include adding an auxiliary gym to West Bloomfield High School, redesigning elementary school common areas and classrooms, updating school security and replacing outdated school buses.

Mull said “the timing couldn’t be more beneficial” to introduce the proposal. If it’s rejected, officials would address other strategies for filling the district’s needs.

Since 2010-11, K-12 enrollment in the West Bloomfield schools has fallen from 6,683 to 5,454 this year, according to state data.

“We absolutely have to reduce to one middle school, so we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board if (the proposal) doesn’t pass,” Mull said. “But what I will say is we will have missed an opportunity. That window will close.”

In Macomb County, Chippewa Valley Schools is seeking a 25-year, $89.9 million bond for general facility and building improvements. It is the second-biggest tax issue up for a vote Tuesday in the region.

If the bond is passed, a resident in a $200,000 home would pay an additional $50 per year in taxes

“When you spread the cost of the bond over the size of the district, we think it’s a really reasonably sized bond,” said Ronald Roberts, superintendent of the state’s seventh-largest district. “We have many buildings; the bond is just about maintaining them in good working order and protecting the investment the community has already made.”

If passed, Chippewa Valley’s bond would go toward “the basics,” including replacing parking lots, roofs, mechanical systems and carpets where needed, Roberts said. Funds also would be used to update security cameras and locks and to provide more computer systems for students.

If the proposal is denied, school officials would only address “safety issues” while the other projects would go untouched, Roberts said.

“We cannot cover it with the general fund,” he said. “We don’t have other ways of affording this.”

Elsewhere in Macomb County, Center Line officials are seeking funds for a new elementary school in the form of a 25-year, $57.8 million bond. If passed, the proposal also will contribute to purchasing new buses and updating other facilities.

Fraser school officials want a 30-year, $29.4 million bond for facility and building improvements.

The Anchor Bay School District is looking for approval of a 30-year, $26.6 million bond to buy new buses and make facility improvements.

Memphis and New Haven community school districts are asking voters for building and site sinking funds for facility upgrades. The Memphis district seeks 1 mill for five years; New Haven requests 1.2 mills for 10 years.

Warren Consolidated Schools is looking to renew two operating millages of 18.32 mills and 9 mills for another 10 years.

In Wayne County, Lincoln Park Public Schools is seeking a renewal and increase of an operating millage, bumping it to 18.25 mills for 20 years. The tax sits at 17.93 mills and is set to expire this year.

Melvindale-Northern Allen Park Schools is asking for a renewal of an 18-mill operating millage for another 10 years.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Results will be updated at throughout the night after voting ends.

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Twitter: @HollyPFournier