Wayne Co. school enhancement millage passes

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

An $80 million millage to bolster funding for Wayne County public school districts has passed.

The Wayne County Regional Educational Service’s Agency proposed property tax passed 54-46 with all the votes counted.

“I’d like to give a profound ‘thank you’ to the voters of Wayne County,” said Randy Liepa, Wayne RESA’s superintendent. The agency provides administrative, information technology and special education services to the county’s districts. “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.”

Two years ago, Wayne RESA put the millage on the ballot, but voters rejected it by 2 percentage points.

Under the proposal, property owners countywide would pay a 2-mill, six-year tax to support the county’s school districts.

Officials said since the state oversees the allotment of funding to school districts, the measure is the only way for the county’s school systems to get additional dollars for education programs.

If approved, the millage would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $96 per year, officials estimate.

It would generate $80 million in its first year, or an extra $385 for every student in a county school district.

“The extra funding for the schools is important," said Deborah Smith, 46, of Westland, who voted Tuesday. “I hope everybody looked at it, read it and voted on it. I hope we can get that done. They need it. These schools need it.”

Smith has a son who is a senior at Franklin High School in Livonia. “We’re talking about the kids and we’re talking about education,” she said.

Smith, who works in finance, said her mother and aunts worked as educators. She said Wayne County schools have long struggled. Her own family noticed the financial differences in the county after moving to the Livonia Public Schools District from Oakland County, where her daughter had attended school.

Ellen Nichols, 27 of Grosse Pointe Shores, also voted yes on the Wayne County school millage request.

“It was a no-brainer,” she said. “I teach special education.”

Elsewhere, Van Buren Public Schools had before voters the renewal of an eight-year, 18-mills operating millage. The measure passed in a nail-biter, 50.47 to 49.26. It will generate $9 million for the district.

In addition, voters in Van Buren Township supported, by a 65-35 margin, a seven-year, 6.5-mills public safety proposal. Homeowners in the community now pay 4 mills for police, fire, emergency dispatch and ordinance enforcement services, but the millage expires this year. It generates about $4 million.

The new millage will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $125 per year, officials said, and generate more than $6 million.

Grosse Pointe Park had a new public safety measure before voters. It sought approval of a 15-year, 2.75-mills tax to pay for police and fire services, and passed by a margin of 60-40.

Taylor Public Schools asked voters to support a $5.9 million school improvement bond. The proposal called for a six-year, 0.96-mill tax to pay for the bond, which will be used to pay for new technology, upgrading school buildings and buying school buses, officials said. It passed 59 percent to 41 percent.

River Rouge Schools officials said the district needs 5 mills over 20 years for school repairs, but the measure failed, 55 to 45 percent.

Grosse Ile Township had a 0.15-mill request to fund bike paths; it passed 66-33.

Harper Woods sought 1 mill to pay for its library; that passed 76-24.

Rockwood is asking for 2 mills for 10 years to fix roads. That passed 51-49.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058

Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.