The Grosse Pointe Public Schools’ Board of Education is prudently pausing the Sinking Fund millage approval, but the plot will get much thicker pending the August 5th Wayne County enhancement millage results.
This November’s election is a big one for the Board and Grosse Pointe district in general. Not only will three of seven Board of Education seats be up for election, so will nearly a quarter of all the district’s annual revenues – mainly in the form of the district’s uniquely valuable (8 mill) Hold Harmless tax levy.
My blog entries on the recently failed tech bond proposal addressed GPPSS tax policy, but in broad strokes the district levies just over 10 mills locally, about double the statewide local district average. When factoring GPPSS’ much higher than average homestead property tax base, each of our mills is worth 6 times above the state average.
Against this backdrop, the Board will inevitably endorse renewal of the Hold Harmless millage. The rest of the 10 Homestead mills is comprised of the Debt Millage and the Sinking Fund.
The August 5th Wayne County enhancement millage is a new wrinkle. Locally the GPPSS Board of Education (this past April) voted unanimously to oppose placing the 2 mill, 6 year tax increase on the ballot, but since other Wayne County districts representing a majority of students approved the language, the issue will be decided by voters in a county-wide vote.
The GPPSS Board opposed it, most likely, since it would cost Grosse Pointe Public School taxpayers about $5 million and return $3.2 million annually. GPPSS is one of twelve Wayne County districts that would get back less than what they would contribute (due to the formula used to distribute the funds by student enrollment, not by tax base.)
For reference, the GPPSS Sinking Fund yields about $2.5 million annually and is limited by law for certain uses. The enhancement millage is worth more not only in dollars, but in flexibility. The enhancement millage does not have the restrictions of the Sinking Fund. It could be used just as the Sinking Fund is today, but also more broadly for technology or even employee salaries and benefits.
Locally the Sinking Fund is also due for renewal, but the Board has chosen to wait on the outcome of the Wayne County enhancement millage before deciding whether to place the Sinking Fund renewal back on the ballot, at least according to this official district document.
This does not necessarily mean that if the enhancement millage passes that the GPPSS Board will not seek Sinking Fund renewal. With a ballot language deadline of August 11th, the Board would officially decide that question at their August 7th meeting.
Should the Wayne County millage pass, this is a political hot potato. Certainly loud factions of the GPPSS community would gladly welcome a new $3.2 million revenue stream on top of the Sinking Fund’s $2.5 million. But even placing the question on the November ballot could threaten passage of the Hold Harmless millage.
For politically engaged readers, all this represents a great question to pose to the seven declared Board of Education candidates, obviously aside from our currently elected members. What would they do in this scenario?