School funds, marijuana proposal to be decided in some Oakland County communities

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Walled Lake — Issues of school funding, operating millage renewals and a marijuana initiative will be decided next month by voters in four Oakland County communities.

Three districts will put questions before voters on May 7 that could impact the future of education in their respective communities. The largest of these is a $316 million bond proposal for Walled Lake schools where 14,144 students attend pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade classes.

The Walled Lake bond issue is for infrastructure and educational equity improvements at all schools with significant building changes planned at Dublin Elementary and Western High schools, as well as an early childhood facility, and some safety and security additions, school superintendent Ken Gutman said. He stressed all of the district’s 19 schools would see some form of improvement — from parking lots to boilers — by the bond approval.

“We have a unique opportunity at this time where we can request a $316 million bond without a tax increase,” Gutman said. “The district currently has five outstanding debt obligations, four of which will be paid off within five years, and other factors that give the district this opportunity.”

Dublin Elementary School, built in 1928, is set to be replaced by a new building if voters approve a $316 million bond issue for Walled Lake schools on the May 7 ballot.

One building targeted for major attention is 90-year-old Dublin, the oldest school in the district.

“It was built in 1928, and although it has been added onto several times, it is an old facility that we believe should be replaced with a modern elementary school that offers flexible learning spaces,” Gutman said.

As well, the equity factor will be addressed at Western High School with a collaborative learning environment, a modern commons/cafeteria area, upgraded academic areas, updated athletic spaces, new restrooms and other improvements.

“Our goal is to offer functional, equitable learning atmospheres across the district and to address myriad infrastructure needs,” Gutman said. “These critical upgrades range from heating and ventilation systems, roof and window replacements, and lighting upgrades, to restroom and locker room renovations, and parking lot and sidewalk repairs at most of our buildings.

"The critical repairs needed at our 22 buildings far exceed our Sinking Fund. Keeping our schools in good repair improves our children’s learning environment and is linked to increased property values.”

The maximum number of years any series of bonds may be outstanding, outside refunding, is no more than 30 years. The estimated millage that will be levied to pay the proposed bonds in the first year is 0.58 mills, or about 58 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.

The annual debt millage required to retire all outstanding bonds, including that proposed on the ballot, is expected to be about 4.13 mills or about $4.13 per $1,000 of taxable value. So a home with a state equalized value of $100,000, could expect to pay about $413 a year.

School district spokeswoman Judy Evola noted community response has been positive, partly credited to the district hosting four community facility needs and assessment meetings and also conducted a survey to gather input.

Dublin Elementary principal Jeffrey Drewno talks with students at the White Lake school on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. The 91-year-old building will be replaced by a new facility if ] voters approve a $316 million bond issue for Walled Lake Consolidated Schools on the May 7 ballot. 
Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

In other Oakland County communities:

Clawson: Voters will decide whether to allow a non-homestead operating millage renewal proposal to allow the schools to continue to levy the number of operating mills  permitted by the state of Michigan, with 8 mills being the maximum allowable levy — or $18 on each $1,000 of taxable property evaluation — for 10 years (2019 to 2028). Approval would cost commercial or industrial property owners with a state equalized value of $50,000, about $900 a year and raise an estimated revenue of $1.9 million during the 2019 calendar year to be used for general operating purposes.

“A non-homestead millage is currently in place, and this non-homestead millage proposal will 'replace' the current non-homestead millage for a period of 10 years,” Superintendent Tim Wilson said. “Again, this millage does not increase taxes on homeowners in Clawson.

The district has 1,545 students, Wilson said.

Oak Park: Voters will decide whether to renew 17. 8508 mills levy which expired in 2018, for general school operating purposes for 20 years on non-homestead taxable property (primarily commercial, industrial and rental property). The renewal would produce$17.8508 on each $1,000 of taxable value) and raise an estimated $3.8 million in revenue for the school district in its first year.

“This is a renewal of a millage which expired in June 2018,” said Daveda Colbert, superintendent of the 4,966-student district. “The funds will help us with what is needed to educate our students — supplies, staff and programs.”

Royal Oak Township: Voters will decide a general operating millage renewal for four years and also a proposed marijuana initiative.

Approval of the previously authorized levy of 4.5 mills (or $4.5 per $1,000 of taxable property) would raise $144,150 in its first year. A property with a taxable value of $100,000 would be taxed $450 annually for the millage.

Approval of Proposal 1 would authorize an unlimited number of marijuana-related businesses on parcels of property with the township that are larger than five acres and have been continuously unoccupied for at least five years.

Township officials did not respond to telephone calls or emails on the issues other than to refer questions to a law firm, which also did not return calls Friday.

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