Renewal necessary for schools

Published 5:19 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – On Tuesday, Aug. 7, residents in the Niles Community School district will be asked to renew the non-homestead property tax levy.
This vote is crucial to all schools within the district, said Doug Law, Niles Community School superintendent.
If the vote does not pass, it would cost the district $3 million a year, making it almost impossible for the school district to operate, he said.
However, Law pointed out voters will simply be asked to renew an existing tax levy.
Although homeowners in a district approve the millage, they do not pay this levy. This millage is assessed on business/commercial property, second homes and non-exempt agriculture property. Primary residences (homesteads) are not assessed this 18 mill levy.
"What is $3 million dollars? If this vote does not pass, it would mean a significant amount of teachers would be let go. Transportation would be cut drastically, as would athletic programs," Law said Tuesday afternoon.
"This is very important to any school district and is required throughout the state."
Law wanted to make it clear to residents this Aug. 7 vote has nothing to do with recent bond proposals.
"There has been a lot of confusion with this non-homestead tax vote. A lot of phone calls are being made to the City of Niles and Niles Township regarding this vote, especially since the absentee ballots have already been sent out. This is something every school district has to do. If it doesn't pass, it's not going to be good," Law said.
He continued, adding that the non-homestead tax vote has passed every year since it started in 1994.
"This millage was part of the 1994 Proposal A Tax Reform package that the voters in Michigan approved for changing the way Michigan schools are financed," he said.
"Plain and simple, homeowners do not pay for this," Law added.
Under Proposal A, Michigan schools are financed through the School Aid Fund that receives money from a variety of different taxes.
The majority of the funding comes from the sales tax and a 6-mill property tax that all property owners pay. In addition to these two sources and the non-homestead millage, the School Aid Fund gets money from portions of the Michigan lottery, cigarette tax, liquor tax, real estate transfer tax and income tax, he said.
"This year's ballot is the same as it was two years ago. The only thing different are the dates," Law said.
He also said the ballot language will be to approve the millage for the next three years. The Niles School District has been voting on this every two years. In some school districts, Law said residents are asked to vote every year.
"This is very crucial for the school district. Not passing this means a significant amount of funding (would be lost) and in most cases the school district would not be able to operate," Law said.
Voters will vote at the same location they voted in the May election.