Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ann Arbor Voters will consider a replacement AAPS millage at May election

The City has published details for the May 2 special election, in which voters will consider replacing a millage for Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Registration and Voting
  • The last day to register to vote in this election is Monday, April 3.
  • The Clerk's Office will be open Saturday April 29, 8am - 2pm for absentee ballot requests.
  • The Special Election is Tuesday, May 2, 2017.
  • City polling places will be open from 7am until 8pm.
Verify your registration and find your polling location at the Michigan Voter Information Center, and review the Secretary of State's Voting FAQs.

The Clerk's webpage notes that “Due to recent flooding damage and ongoing renovation work at Allen Elementary School, voters assigned to Precincts 3-4 (Ward 3, Precinct 4) and 3-7 (Ward 3, Precinct 7), will be assigned to a temporary polling place at Pattengill Elementary, 2100 Crestland Drive … 3-4 and 3-7 voters are scheduled to return to Allen School for the May 2, 2017 Special Election.”

You can also email or call the City Clerk for more information or to check the status of your voter registration in Ann Arbor.

On the Ballot

The ballot proposal is a 2.5-mill replacement for the current 1-mill AAPS sinking fund millage. It would replace the current (2015-2019) millage with a ten-year millage, from 2017-2026, and would cost $250 annually for every $100,000 of a home’s taxable value (which in Michigan is typically near 50% of a home’s market value; often less if the home hasn’t been sold in many years1). For comparison, the current (1-mill) sinking fund millage costs $100 annually for the same home.

AAPS has published an executive summary of this proposal, which opens:
In the Ann Arbor Public Schools, we are responsible for more than 3.4 million square feet in 34 school buildings and properties, located in the City of Ann Arbor and surrounding townships.

Sinking Fund is the millage levied in Michigan to support the repair and construction of school buildings. Sinking Fund dollars protect critical General Fund dollars that must be preserved for instruction, programs, salaries and other essential district operating costs. Under state law, sinking fund proceeds may not be used to pay teacher or administrator salaries.

The AAPS has an aging infrastructure that has not had additional investment, beyond the 1 mill Sinking Fund, in more than a decade (2004). The current reality is that the 1 mill Sinking Fund is not adequate to cover the needs to repair district infrastructure.

We have a wonderfully successful AAPS school district: our teachers and students, parents and programs are second to none. The AAPS is among the top-achieving districts in the state and across the country. In the Ann Arbor community, we are the proud beneficiaries of 32 beautiful school buildings, and it is our responsibility to restore and prepare them for the next generation of children. The current reality is that our school buildings are aging and require significant renewal and restoration.

Increasing the Sinking Fund provides a critical opportunity to provide much-needed improvements to each of our 32 school buildings. The breakdown of this 2017 Sinking Fund proposal is that approximately 65% is slated for repairs, approximately 15% to expansion in a few strategic areas of the city to meet the demands of new housing development, and approximately 20% to continue the 2015 Bond work that is currently in progress across the District.
The report notes that the school district has fallen behind on building upkeep since the economic downturn over the past decade forced deferral of routine maintenance, and says “it is important to responsibly attend to pressing physical property needs.”

It also contains a breakdown estimating how the funds from the millage would be spent.

If you don’t have the time to read the full executive report, consider reading this report on the millage from the AAPS news site:
The district currently has a one-mill sinking fund millage that is set to expire in 2019, but if voters approve the 2.5 mill sinking fund, it would replace the existing millage. The current millage raises eight million dollars but School Board President Christine Stead says it isn’t providing enough money to maintain Ann Arbor’s schools which on average are more than 60 years old. “It is not anywhere near enough to even handle one major roofing project at one of our big high schools,” Stead says. “So if we were to divert all of those funds to one thing it still wouldn’t be enough to get us there in a year.”
The AAPS website has a history of the sinking fund millage.

This article has been updated to clarify the millage cost estimate and explain how property taxes are assessed in Michigan.

1: A home’s assessed value, in Michigan, is 50% of the home’s market value. Taxable value is based on the assessed value but is capped — increases are limited to the change in the Consumer Price Index, or 5%, whichever is lower — until the home is sold. For additional information, see the City’s page on Assessment-State Equalized Value (SEV). The AAPS report linked in this article, which says the new millage would cost $125 for every $100,000 of a home’s value, appears to be talking about the home’s market, not taxable, value.

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