Opinion: Grosse Pointe tax hike burdens taxpayers
On Nov. 6, the Grosse Pointe Public School System asks voters to hike their own taxes to pay for a huge, 21-year, $111 million interest-laden school bond which will plunge the community $183 million further into debt. Voters in Grosse Pointe and Harper Woods should vote no.
The disrepair of our schools is not because we have not taxed enough; the disrepair is because our leaders unwisely spend taxpayer dollars.
Over the past 10 years, Grosse Pointe schools have lost over 1,000 students. Indeed, every year for the next four years, 100 students are projected to leave our schools. Now is not the time to add to a burgeoning debt burden. Rather, now is the time to focus energy on right-sizing schools, improving curriculum to attract enrollment, and choosing responsible funding models.
Currently, taxpayers in Grosse Pointe owe $30 million in principal on the $62 million bond levied in 2002. If the tax hike is approved, taxpayers will owe almost a quarter of a billion dollars in debt. With decreasing enrollment, taking on more debt is irresponsible.
Voting no on this proposal signals to the Grosse Pointe School System it must choose a better path to finance needed school improvements.
First, other funding approaches, such as a sinking fund, could fix our schools for lower total cost to the taxpayer, and with a higher percentage of taxpayer dollars making it into schools. If this bond is approved, only 60 percent of the $183 million proposal will go to our schools, the rest, 40 percent, goes to pay off $72 million in interest and fees. A sinking fund, while also a tax, is more financially efficient because it does not incur long-term debt. The school district may spend these funds on construction, renovations, repairs, security improvements and the acquisition or upgrade of technology. Every taxpayer dollar makes it to students.
Second, the school district should consider right-sizing the district to free up funds for improvements. Currently, Grosse Pointe schools have 30% excess capacity, with students leaving the district every year. By right-sizing the district, every taxpayer dollar will be used to its full potential.
A no vote on the school bond means you support every tax dollar going to our schools and our students instead of debt and waste.
Grant Strobl is a 2014 graduate of Grosse Pointe North High School and a student at Notre Dame Law School.