In what appears to be an argument against a tax increase for a technology bond, Trustee Lois Valente stated that a $50 million tech bond proposal “will put us at the highest number of mills of any district in the entire state of Michigan.” Oddly despite this position, Valente appears poised to support the millage rate increase.
Meanwhile Board Treasurer Judy Gafa posted on her Facebook page the millage rates of select Michigan schools and wrote, “We are in the middle of the pack (of mills levied).” Since we levy less, presumably this is good enough reason to raise our taxes in the Treasurer’s opinion.
Both claims are equally wrong – disturbing considering the two represent 28% of our school board vote. Valente, however, is far closer to the truth.
There are 551 traditional public school districts in Michigan. All but 43 levy a local tax to fund their schools. Those 43 rely exclusively on the state School Aid Fund and its statewide 6 mill Homestead tax levy that flows straight to Lansing. These 6 mills can’t be voted higher or lower by local districts.
The remaining 518 levy some form of additional local tax – either a Hold Harmless tax (levied by just 4.3% of districts), a Bond tax (levied by 87% of districts) or a Sinking Fund tax (levied by 27% of districts).
Grosse Pointe happens to levy all three, placing us in very rare company. A mere 8 districts, less than 1.5% of all Michigan public school districts, levy all three. A successful tech bond vote in Grosse Pointe would simply increase the bond millage rate.
If we were truly “middle of the pack” as Gafa claims, our local tax levy would be about 5 mills. That’s the average local millage rate of all Michigan school districts. Instead GPPSS levies 10.088 mills, more than double the state average and the 28th highest rate in the state.
If a $50 million dollar bond were to pass, our tax rate would climb by about 2.5 mills and would move GPPSS to the 10th highest local tax rate in the state.
Valente’s fiddle is far more tuned than Gafa’s. By the numbers, Valente is less than 2% off the truth while Gafa is nearly 50% off.
Valente’s claim is made more legitimate when factoring taxable value. Tax rate (mills) are but one half of the taxpayer equation since that rate is applied against Homestead property taxable value to derive actual taxes paid.
GPPSS’ Homestead taxable value per pupil is in the top 10% of all Michigan districts. When applying our 28th highest tax rate against top 10% taxable values, GPPSS tax yield per pupil is 3rd highest in the state and nearly 6 times above the statewide average. Valente’s tune improves.
Even if we were to accept the faulty logic that a lower tax rate gives license to raise taxes, as Gafa argues, we would dismiss the equally important metric of tax valuation. The fact that we have Board members who aren’t acknowledging this is troubling to say the least.
Any objective analysis of the GPPSS current tax policy would conclude we already have a very high tax rate AND very high taxable values.
That is why a proposal that would increase that rate by 25% is so insane.