Wayne RESA renewal millage among county ballot issues

Aside from casting their votes for president in the Nov. 3 election, Wayne County voters face a long list of candidates in local races and ballot questions, including a millage renewal request from the county's intermediate school district.

The 2-mill tax, first approved in 2016, funds programs at all 33 county school districts through the Wayne Educational Service Agency. The six-year renewal request would take effect in 2022 and raise an estimated $90.4 million its first year, according to ballot language.

Advocates say the millage helps school districts make up for stagnant state funding.

Wayne RESA Superintendent Randy Liepa

"It's a game changer for local school districts," Wayne RESA superintendent Randy Liepa said at a news conference last month to launch a campaign backing the millage renewal. "Especially in how schools are funded."

Liepa said the millage costs the average homeowner $8 per month and provides about $300 per student.

When the tax was put on the ballot four years ago, opponents argued it was unfair, collecting more money from districts such as Grosse Pointe and Northville than would be returned. In that election, voters in 27 of 33 Wayne County districts approved of the millage.

Some of that opposition appears to have dissipated. Last month, the Northville Board of Education adopted a resolution supporting the millage renewal.

Some local district officials joined Liepa in calling for voters to approve the measure.

Monica Merritt, superintendent of Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, said the millage has provided about $6 million a year for the western Wayne County district, funding improvements such as smaller class sizes, additional software and technology, and professional development programs for staff members. 

"It really has changed our world and fundamentally changed schools for the foreseeable future," she said. "It is providing (the school district) with critical resources that would otherwise not be available."

Lincoln Park superintendent Terry Dangerfield said the millage has provided $1.8 million a year to the Downriver district, money used for safety updates.

"The money has been spent wisely and responsibly," Dangerfield said.

School and community activist Derrick Anderson said he has been campaigning for the millage renewal on Detroit city buses and at barber shops and hair salons. Anderson's children attended Detroit Public Schools and he has grandchildren in the district.

"I definitely support this millage," he said. "It has definitely helped reduce class size, made improvements to school buildings and security measures."

In other Wayne County ballot issues:

Belleville: Voters will decide two ballot proposals that would permit and regulate marijuana establishments.

Hamtramck: Voters will decide whether to increase a 0.5-mill levy to 10.5 mills for  20 years to raise $2.2 million a year to fund police and fire pensions. Also on the ballot are two proposals that call for merging the police and fire departments into a single public safety force.

Wayne: City voters face competing proposals that would either make council elections at-large or retain district voting. If both issues pass, the one with the greater yes vote will take effect.

In countywide races:

Prosecutor: Incumbent Democrat Kym Worthy is seeking a fifth term against Libertarian Daniel Ziemba.

Treasurer: Incumbent Democrat Eric Sabree is challenged by Republican Anthony Wozniak.

Clerk: Incumbent Democrat Cathy Garrett faces Republican Dylan Gomula.

Register of deeds: Incumbent Democrat Bernard Youngblood is opposed by Republican Parker Burns and Libertarian Richard J. Secula. 

In local Wayne County races:

Ecorse: Mayor Lamar Tidwell is challenged by Jeremy Renshaw.

Lincoln Park: Mayor Thomas Karnes is challenged by former councilman Christopher Dardzinski.

Wayne: Mayor John Rhaesa is challenged by councilman Anthony Wayne Miller.