Letter: School tax still a bad deal for Wayne County

Tucked at the bottom of the November 8th ballot will be two tax initiatives which would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the tax bills of Wayne County residents.

The RTA tax has been debated at length. Then there is a new $480,000,000 school tax. Wayne County’s regional educational service agency tax is again fatally flawed, and this version is even worse than the one voters rejected in 2014.

This tax has been described as a “local” tax, but that’s deceptive. It is a wealth transfer from western Wayne County, mostly to Detroit Public Schools. In my district of Northville, only 53 percent of the taxes our residents pay end up in our schools. In Grosse Pointe, it’s 59 percent. In Plymouth, it’s 53 percent. And in Livonia, it’s 68 percent.

But many districts that do not consider themselves wealthy—like Romulus, Taylor, Trenton, and Van Buren—are also forced to donate. The total donation is approximately $80,000,000 over the life of the tax. Proposal A created donor districts; this tax makes that worse.

The bulk of the transfer dollars goes to the new Detroit Public Schools Community District. Notwithstanding the $610 million bailout they just received, they will receive over $30,000,000 more than their taxpayers contribute. Students attending great charter schools, like the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, or private schools, like Detroit Cristo Rey, receive nothing.

Worse yet is what is revealed from a cursory review of the DPSCD budget. With a bailout, DSPCD is still spending $654 million and bringing in $638 million. This is a recipe for a repeat disaster, and this time, Wayne County taxpayers will be footing the bill.

Proponents have sent out advertising, pushing the millage as “the only way” to raise money. But schools can be supported by a truly local tax. The only substantial line item on their budget that must be funding with an operating millage, and the line item that makes up the majority of most budgets, is salaries and benefits.

This tax proposal features no guarantee that funds will be used for any particular purpose. Taxpayers should know how their funds will likely be used.

Matthew Wilk, treasurer

Northville Board of Education