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Wayne RESA millage win being watched by other districts

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

A voter-approved $80 million millage to increase funding for Wayne County public schools could serve as a template for other cash-strapped countywide districts, education administrators say.

William C. Miller, executive director of the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators and associate director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators, said there are no specific plans in other districts at this time for enhancement millage requests.

But asked if it might make a productive model for other intermediate districts to copy, he said local districts definitely would benefit from an ISD enhancement millage.

“The support that (Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency) received from local districts during the campaign is the model to replicate,” Miller said. “A model that is based on strong local district cooperation and coordination with their intermediate school districts is much more likely to result in successfully securing additional regional resources for students,” he said.

The millage was supported by 27 of the county’s 33 public school districts. Wayne RESA will collect the property tax millage and send back to the districts $385 for each student. The 2-mill tax will be collected for six years.

Supporters say it’s crucial for cash-strapped school districts who have struggled to stay afloat as state funding has been squeezed. Opponents say the tax is unfair, collecting more money from districts such as Grosse Pointe and Northville than would be be returned.

The Wayne RESA property tax passed 54 percent to 46 percent. The agency provides administrative, information technology and special education services to the county’s districts, which educate a total of roughly 200,000 secondary education students.

“Voters realized that here is an opportunity to take matters into their own hands and they’ve done exactly that, recognizing that this money is needed and will go to good use,” said Wayne RESA Superintendent Randy Liepa.

Two years ago, the millage was rejected by 2 percentage points.

Wanda Cook-Robinson, superintendent of Oakland Intermediate School District, said she sees a need “to provide fair and adequate funding for our schools so all students can learn, achieve and compete for jobs. However, at this time we are not actively pursuing a countywide enhancement millage,” she said.

Judy Pritchett, the spokeswoman for the Macomb Intermediate School District, said district officials “have periodically discussed the lack of funding for special education and career technical education, however, nothing is on the agenda currently regarding a millage.”

Schools are set to receive between $7,511 and $8,229 per pupil this school year under the budget signed in June by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

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Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.