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EDITORIAL

Editorial: Vote NO on Wayne RESA tax hike

The Detroit News

In addition to all the candidates Wayne County residents must sort through Nov. 8, they also have several tax proposals to consider. Voters would be wise to say No to the countywide millage request for schools.

It’s a significant tax hike for six years, and one that does not benefit all districts fairly. In effect, the wealthier parts of the county would be subsidizing the poorer areas. That’s inevitable when taxes are levied county wide, instead of by individual districts.

The 2-mill tax hike would generate roughly $80 million a year for county school districts, and it would be allocated on a per-student basis — an estimated $385 a student. That’s a sizable boost, and the funding could be used for any operational expense, whether for hiring teachers or building improvements. The proposal would cost a homeowner with a home value of $100,000 about $100 per year. Depending on where individuals live, that cost could go up significantly.

It’s true that individual public school districts are limited in what they can request from voters. And this education enhancement option for intermediate school districts to raise funds district-wide was included in Proposal A, when the school funding reform passed two decades ago. It’s about the only ways for districts to increase revenue above the state per-pupil foundation grant.

Larger districts are pushing hardest for the millage. For instance, the freshly bailed out Detroit Public Schools Community District, which received $617 million in taxpayer money this summer, would cash the biggest check if the measure passes, given it still has 45,000 students.

The Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) administrators defend the request, saying that 27 of 32 districts in the county approved resolutions to put the proposal on the ballot — representing 75 percent of all students. All communities will still vote on the measure, and if it passes, all schools would see a boost, even if they didn’t want it.

It’s worth noting that none of the 108 charter schools in the county would benefit.

The intermediate school district put an almost identical proposal before voters in August 2014, and it was defeated, albeit by a close margin. Apparently, Wayne RESA is hoping residents had a change of heart.

They shouldn’t support this proposal.

The umbrella district can help its local schools in other ways that don’t increase the tax burden; ISDs are supposed aid schools in coordinating and consolidating services, which is a great way to increase efficiency and reduce cost burdens for individual districts.

While most districts in the county did say they wanted the funding increase, the ones that declined had good reason. In most cases, those communities would have to shell out almost twice as much as they’d get in return.

Matthew Wilk, treasurer of the Northville Board of Education, has written in this paper that only 53 percent of the taxes residents in his district would pay would end up in Northville schools, which is ultimately a wealth transfer to other schools like DPS. The same holds for other districts, including Livonia and Plymouth.

Wayne County residents should recognize this proposal is a bad deal and avoid sending schools such an influx of unaccountable funds.