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Huron Valley Schools Seeking Non-Homestead Millage Renewal

Huron Valley officials say without the millage renewal, the district could lose $9 million of its annual budget.

The following was submitted to White Lake Patch by Huron Valley School's Interim Superintendent Jim Baker.

In 1993, Michigan voters approved Proposal A, which dramatically changed how Michigan schools are funded. Proposal A was intended to accomplish two goals: Lower the property tax burden on homeowners and stabilize funding for schools by closing the gap between low-funded and high-funded districts. While there is no consensus on whether or not Proposal A was successful, it did reduce the frequency of millage campaigns.

Thus, as a result of Proposal A, Huron Valley Schools is required to periodically ask voters in the District to renew the non-homestead portion of its millage. The State of Michigan expects school districts to levy the 18 mills on non-homestead property as a component of what schools receive in per pupil funding. This is a tax that is paid by owners of commercial and industrial property and those who own second homes. Non-homestead property taxes are not levied upon a homeowner’s primary residence. Therefore, residents of the Huron Valley School District who own one home in the District, do not pay this tax.

The non-homestead property taxes represent approximately $9 million or 10 percent of the school district’s budget. To offer some perspective, this amount of revenue is essentially the cost of operating one of our high schools annually. Further perspective is provided when we consider what might have to be eliminated if we failed to have the millage renewed by voters--such as all athletics (approximately $750,000) or transportation ($2.4 million). Even with all transportation and athletics, we would only scratch of the surface of what we would be facing in terms of cuts.

Over the past month or so, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with members of our business community. I’m grateful that the vast majority of those I’ve spoken with are supportive of our schools and understand that a vital, successful school district contributes to a robust economic environment. They recognize that good schools are an essential component of any community that hopes to thrive. When schools and businesses have a strong relationship both parties benefit, and ultimately, the community is more prosperous.

It is important for me to stress three important points: 1) This is a renewal of the 18 mills that has previously been levied on commercial and industrial property and second homes; 2) Homeowners are not subject to this tax on their primary residence; and 3) The revenue from non-homestead taxes equals 10 percent of the school district’s budget.

Needless to say, November 6 is an important date for Huron Valley Schools. We have been extremely fortunate to have been widely supported by our community in past elections, and I am hopeful voters see the merits of this renewal when entering the voting booth in approximately one month. Be sure to visit our website at www.hvs.org for more information.

Brian Perks October 22, 2012 at 11:40 AM
They keep saying that this is not a tax increase. Ten years ago they said this was not a tax on home owners, it is a non-homestead tax (millage) but it is a tax on everyone. It is a tax on all businesses, large and small and when business gets taxed, they normally pass the increase on to their customers. So this IS A TAX INCREASE. I voted against it ten years ago and will vote aginst it again because the line ten years ago was "this will only be for ten years." No more. HA!
Laura Vogel October 22, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I agree with the sentiment that a tax on business(es) is not "free money". It is still a tax. It is much easier, of course, for voters to vote to tax someone/something that they don't think will directly affect them. However, think of some local non-chain businesses (Root Restaurant? One Stop Computer Shop? Diesel Equipment Repair?) and ask yourself whether you think you're "sticking it to the man" by taxing "business" and exempting yourself from the same tax sting. The Headlee Amendment (a.k.a. Proposition A) amended the Michigan Constitution in ways that you'd be surprised. Local school districts (like Huron Valley) that were originally taxing homes and businesses pre-Headlee below a certain threshold are forever forbidden from going back to the citizens to ask us to raise the taxes on our own homes to support our own schools. So we are left with hoping the State sharing formula works out for us, combined with taxing all our local businesses. It seemed like a good idea at the time, of course, when the Headlee Amendment was passed. But now look at where we are: Huron Valley schools are forever doomed to be funded lower than e.g. Bloomfield Hills, Livonia and (yes) Walled Lake. Just bear that in mind when you go to the polls in a few weeks and are asked in five different places to amend the Michigan Constitution further in very special (and some would say "special interest") ways.
Dana Shaw October 22, 2012 at 06:09 PM
As a business owner I will be voting yes!! It will be detrimental to HVS if this renewal doesn't pass, I am already taxed on it and if it doesn't pass I am 100% confident that the government is not going to say" oh well let me lower your taxes" that's not how the real world works... I truely hope that this millage passes. our school district doesn't need any more negative impacts on it!! Without this renewal HVS will lose over 9 million dollars... it could literally mean losing a high school, reverting to am and pm classes for high school, and potentially lose all bussing!!! HVS is already the lowest funded district in the area which is rediculous!! Please research it thouroughly before voting against this!! It is so important for our kids!!!
Scot Powers October 22, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Laura, But aren't these local non-chain businesses that you refer to, already paying the millage? This is a renewal not an ask for new money. A Yes vote means, they continue to pay their share (and pass it on to us thru higher priced goods & services). Do you think that any of these businesses will lower their prices for the next 10 years if they no longer have to pay the non-homestead millage? Honestly, it's a price of doing business - it's already baked into their profit-loss statements. I would love to vote to give them a tax break, but our young people just cannot afford it. We just went through the process of closing Highland Middle School and a couple Elementary schools -- This type of budget cut to HVS represents cutting a High School.... This should be a landslide YES for every parent of a HVS student as well as our local businesses who want to give back to their community - and every resident in the district. While we can't go back and change the past; what we can do is make sure that we don't lose the funding that is currently in place and make sure that others don't jeopardize HVS based on some narrow-minded thinking.
Laura Vogel October 23, 2012 at 11:03 AM
I never said they weren't already being taxed. I merely pointed out that it is very easy for you/me/us to decide to tax someone other than ourselves.
Laura Vogel October 23, 2012 at 11:04 AM
The school funding scheme is broken in a number of ways, the worst of which is that we did this to ourselves by way of a Constitutional Amendment and thus it is that much more impossible to fix.
Laura Vogel October 23, 2012 at 01:03 PM
I must point out that it is not "narrow minded" to question whether a tax issue is fair. Just because it is being done that way does not mean it is the best nor the only way. Would you personally be willing to tax yourself another $12k/yr to pay for (essentially) tuition to send your child (or someone else's child) to Huron Valley Schools? Per month, that's another $1,000/mo. I use this example for three reasons. First, the $12k/yr ($1k/mo) is easy math. Second, the funding that HVS gets from the State is (rounding for easy math) about $6k. And third, since we are speaking heartfelt about what you/me/us consider important, putting a personal price on that importance brings the issue home. Would I personally pay from my household to send my children to the local school? YES, because even at $12k/kid, the cost is less than e.g. sending them to one of the area private high schools. None of which, frankly, are terribly "in the area" and thus are not only more expensive in pure dollars but are also more expensive in terms of transportation and logistical costs to my family.

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