Editorial

Wayland schools should clarify election questions

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

Wayland Union Schools will ask voters in a special election May 7 to renew the Non-Homestead tax levy of 18 mills, and school officials are hoping for better results than four years ago.

Non-Homestead elections usually are no-brainers because most voters, residential property owners, won’t have to pay. The millage, first implemented by Proposal A of 1994, is applied only to rental properties, business properties, industrial properties and vacation homes



Yet there are a couple of confusing characteristics in the request.

The most important one is that the renewal proposal actually is for 18.387 mills, not 18.

Leslie Wagner, assistant superintendent for operations and finance, explained that the district is only legally allowed to levy a maximum of 18 mills in this election. Schools are seeking a renewal of the current levy of 18.387 mills as a means to protect against any future Headlee Amendment rollback. The district then would still be able to levy the full 18 mills, but would never be able to levy any more than that.

“Many school districts seek to have a higher millage rate than the allowable 18 mills,” Wagner said. “The remaining 0.387 mill is only available if a Headlee rollback happens that would cause us to go below the allowable 18 mills.”

Leslie Wagner

Michigan voters approved the “Headlee” Amendment to the Michigan Constitution in 1978. It requires local government units (including school districts) to reduce their millage levies when annual growth on existing property values is greater than the inflation rate.

Many common law townships, for example, originally were authorized to levy a mill, but now have tax rates below 0.75 mill because of the rollback.

Another source of some confusion is that some of the promotions say the levy would be for four years, but the actual request on the ballot says seven years.

Little questions such as these may have led to the most recent Homestead millage almost being defeated back in August 2020. It passed by just 10 votes, but that also could have been the result of poor publicity with Supt. Norm Taylor retiring and then-new Supt. Christina Hines taking over only a month before the election.

School officials insist that without the Homestead operating millage, the district would experience an estimated $4.4 million loss in revenue each year and could cause significant cuts to programs and services.

It would behoove Wayland Union Schools to do a little bit of marketing and public relations between now and May 7 to clarify any misconceptions like these and avoid the embarrassment and near catastrophe from four years ago.

2 Comments

  • If you pay rent or lot rent this tax is on you. They will say it is for vacation homes but there are few compared to rentals. This is a tax on the poor.

  • “Gas, grass or A$$ nobody rides for free”

    Again, we have some folks that tell only half of the story. Our esteemed editor says, “Zero increase to homeowner taxes.” This statement by itself is correct.

    His words:

    “is applied only to rental properties, business properties, industrial properties and vacation homes.”

    (I believe farmland is also included) my words.

    This is also correct, to a point…….

    Rental, business, and industrial properties, while they do pay property tax, they will charge the end user for the cost of doing business. So, in the end like Bobby says it’s just another hidden tax on you and me. You like to talk about free money however tell the whole story.

    Cheers!!

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