When the effort for passing Proposal A was in full force in 1993,I worked my heart out trying to defeat it. Some people thought I was crazy. There was no question that assessments were out of control as well as the property taxes they generated. My argument then is the same as it is now. It was the method they chose that I was opposed to. A tax reduction could have been acheived by something as simple as reducing taxes from 50% of true cash value to say 40% of the true cash value of the property.
They on the other hand had to make it complicated and bate one segment of the population against the other. While Proposal A did slow the taxation rate by reduceing millage rates and slowing taxable values for some, other were picking up the burden as property changed hands through sales or inheritance. Right now, two families living in identical houses in the same subdivision may be paying drastically different amounts of taxes for the same services because one person has lived in their house longer. The crash in our property values has helped to aleviate that problem for some but it has not eliminated it. When we go to sell our homes there are fewer buyers because the tax will then be applied to the State Equalized Value of our property making the payments to expensive.
Proposal A had all kinds of enabling legislation that went into effect. We got an increase in the sales tax and gas tax. Inflation helps to increase those taxes. Given the way the federal government is spending money, we will soon see a huge increase in inflation and taxes. We got a different rate of tax on our non homstead property. Another thing that came to fruition was an increase in requests for bonds and sinking funds for schools, which are still allowed.
Due to the decline in proprty values,you will now begin to see more Truth in Taxation Hearings. Local governing bodies can increase millage rates up to the maximum allowable truth in assessment / equalization millage by simple ordanance or resolution instead of a vote of the people. This can be done because the revenue generated under Proposal A will not equal last years revenue plus inflation without increasing the millage. This is also true of all the other government millages in Michigan.
Another interesting restriction that was created under Proposal A was a requirement that no increase over the then authorized operating millage could be passed unless it was done on an intermediate school district level. Each County wide region is allowed a 3 mil enhancement if approved by the voters.
Multi-district tax a tough sell, but that could change
By DAWSON BELL
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
With state aid in peril and federal stimulus funding that came to the rescue this year set to expire, is it time for Michigan’s local school districts to turn again to local taxpayers?
Some have exercised a rarely used option under 1994’s Proposal A to seek multi-district millage hikes.
Very few have succeeded.
The schools of Washtenaw County — including Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline — asked voters to approve enhancement mills on Nov. 3. Property taxpayers in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District would have paid an extra 2 mills for 5 years had the request been approved.
It passed in Ann Arbor, but got hammered elsewhere. The final tally was 57.4% no to 42.6% yes.
“We knew that this was a bad time” to be asking taxpayers for more money, said Ann Arbor Public Schools communications director Liz Margolis. “But we just had no choice.” With state help in decline as state revenues shrink and the likelihood of more bad news to come, a countywide discussion had been under way for a year, Margolis said. Ann Arbor voters had a history of support for school millages, and district officials led the campaign.
But while Ann Arbor voters kept their reputation intact, the measure lost by margins of up to 3-1 in some out-county communities such as Milan and Lodi Township. Margolis said schools won’t try again soon and would give it another shot only if every school district in the intermediate school district, or ISD, would “buy in and really try to sell it.”
So far, talk about enhancement- millage requests — regions can ask for as much as 3 mills and use the money for any purpose — has been muted around the state.
David Martell, executive director of the Michigan School Business Officials, said that for years after Proposal A took effect, school funding was secure and obstacles to winning regional approval for tax hikes were so high, that few enhancement elections were held.
“It’s a very, very hard sell,” Martell said, chiefly because the cost and benefits are usually unbalanced across an ISD because the tax is assessed on property wealth and distributed on a per-pupil basis.
But financial conditions are rapidly worsening in so many districts that Martell said the bar for passing a millage could drop.
“I don’t know why” enhancement- millage requests “haven’t taken hold more recently,” he said. “I think once parents start to feel the real impact of the cuts that are coming … they might turn to something like that.”
Voters in Kalamazoo County approved a 1.5-mill regional tax in 2005 and renewed it by a wider margin in 2008. But Kalamazoo Regional Superintendent Ron Fuller said that unless economic anxiety in Michigan lightens by then, “it will be a tougher sell a year and a half from now” when it is scheduled to expire again.
Doug Drake, a financial analyst with Public Policy Associates in Lansing and former state budget official, said that if state lawmakers decline to approve higher taxes to restore school funding, more districts may have to consider joining for enhancement efforts.
“When the checkbook in the sky is empty, you just may have to think about going door-todoor. There aren’t very many other options,” Drake said.
Governor Granholm and the legislature understood this when they refused to reduce the budget in other ways, while alowing cuts to education. If you can not get the legislature to raise taxes, put the pressure on parents to do the job.
I for one am tired of excuses and the blame shifting. The Governor and the legislators are paid to do a job but they keep shiftng the hard stuff on to the taxpayer and disclaim any personal reponsibility. Enough is enough! We need to make them do their job or remove them and keep them from any future office.