Dowagiac Union Schools seeks renewal of non-homestead millage

Published 8:16 am Thursday, March 9, 2023

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DOWAGIAC — On May 2, voters residing within the Dowagiac Union Schools district boundaries will be asked to renew a non-homestead millage that provides the district with approximately 22 percent of its operating budget. 

Non-Homestead represents industrial, commercial and some agricultural property and “second homes” and does not include a family’s primary home. According to district officials, the request consists of two parts. First is a renewal of 17.7063 mills and second is a request for 0.5 mills to restore the millage to 18 mills and allow a small hedge for future rollbacks. 

“As we continue moving through the 2022-23 school year, our district continues to work toward  improvements in all of our programs and offerings for students and the community,” said the Dowagiac Union Schools Board of Education in a joint letter to community members. “We appreciate the hard work from our students and staff and the support from parents and the community.”

The proposed millage is a renewal that was approved most recently by the voters in 2018 and is not a new tax. The district has voter approval to levy up to a maximum of 18 mills on non-homestead property through December 2023. The current levy is 17.7063. This millage began in 1995 and is voted on every few years. 

Due to the Headlee Amendment, there has been a Headlee rollback for the past several years. The millage will renew the current levy of 17.7063 and increase the mills by 0.5 mills to restore the millage to the 18 mills and allow a small hedge for future rollbacks. The district cannot levy more than 18 mills each year. 

The full 18 mills would generate $6.2 million annually, approximately 22 percent of the district’s budget. If the millage were not to pass, the district’s available funds would be reduced, and the State of Michigan would not fill the gap. 

Officials said funding for school districts changed significantly in 1993-94 when the Michigan voters passed Proposal A. Under Proposal A, the State pays the majority of the cost, but to receive full funding, schools must levy 18 mills on non-homestead property in their district.

Districts receive most of their funding on a per-pupil basis. The amount a school district receives per-pupil is called the Foundation Allowance. The current per-pupil Foundation Allowance for Dowagiac Union  School District is $9,150. This represents the major portion of DUS’ revenue and is funded from two sources: 1.) Local Revenue – 18 mills collected on non-homestead property, and  2.) State Revenue.