Sunday, May 20, 2007

Phantom Mills Strike Again

In February 2005 the Crestwood School District in Dearborn Heights and the Grosse Pointe School District, with very little turn out, and certainly little understanding on the part of the electorate, voted in millages in excess of the 18 mill limit on non-homestead property allowed under Proposal A of 1994. We were horrified to discover that this was not the first time this had happened and that it was becoming a way of life in districts across the state. We believed that this was a violation of the Headlee Amendment contained in Article IX of the State Constitution.
By holding mills off to the side and not levying them until after the rollback required by the Headlee Amendment, when revenue exceeded the rate of inflation, they could override the amendment years into the future without bringing it to a vote. This had the effect of compounding the effect of the value of the portion applied to bring the millage levy back to the 18 mills each year, since it would not be effected by the rollback and clearly was not legal under law or charter.
In April of that year, a request to the Attorney General was made on our behalf by Representative Fulton Sheen, who served as Vice Chair of the Tax Policy Committee. Along with that, an 11 page report was submitted in support of our position by the Anderson Economic Group out of Lansing. The report is still available under Special Reports on our website and is titled Phantom Mills.
An answer was not forthcoming from the Attorney General’s office. Our repeated requests were ignored. We had waited almost a year then we thought we could solve the problem with the “Stop Over Spending Petition” that was going to close the loopholes being used to get around Article IX Section 26 -32 of the Constitution. That petition effort was sabotaged by special interest. We collected over a half million signatures but deliberate multiple signatures (one signing as many as 11 times) caused the drive to fail.
Now "Phantom Mills" are spreading to sinking funds for schools, charter millages for cities and eventually counties, if this has not already happened.
The last month we have been attending meetings in Dearborn where their charter commission just voted to place a charter proposal before the council which would allow a 15 mill maximum levy with an additional mill used to override Headlee in the future.
We can not allow this to continue, the electorate will have no way to determine what they are voting for and the Headlee Amendment will become useless. The WCTA will start over to attempt to stop this.