County voters reject school millage

Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 4, 2009

Nearly 60 percent of Washtenaw County voters rejected a property tax increase yesterday that would have provided additional funding to the area’s public schools.

The Regional Enhancement Millage was proposed by the Washtenaw County Intermediate School District, which is comprised of 10 school districts including Ann Arbor Public Schools, to deal with mounting budget concerns.

The millage would have increased county property taxes by $2 for every $1,000 of taxable value over a five-year period, with revenue distributed to districts on a per-pupil basis.

The millage faced significant opposition from several local groups, including Citizens for a Responsible Washtenaw and Ann Arbor Citizens for Responsible School Spending. The groups cited reckless school spending and Michigan’s dire economy as reasons for opposing the millage.

CRW, a group mainly comprised of local businesspeople, devised an alternative “five-point plan for district transformational change,” according to Albert Berriz, CRW’s treasurer.

Berriz said he’s pleased that Washtenaw County voted against the millage and hopes that AAPS considers his group’s plan.

“Our five-point plan is what we believe in,” Berriz said. “The voters have spoken, and now we have to put that plan into action.”

AAPS Superintendent Todd Roberts told the Daily on Monday that the district would likely face substantial cuts if the millage didn’t pass.

According to Roberts, the district expects a deficit between $15 million and $17 million for the 2010-2011 school year.

Without the millage money, Roberts said, the district will be forced to make deep cuts, beginning with school employees.

“Staff is where most of our costs are,” Roberts told the Daily on Monday.

Roberts added that conversations would take place with members of the community regarding further cuts.

The University’s chapter of the College Democrats publicly backed the millage and reached out to student voters over the past couple days.

Last weekend the Democrats distributed pro-millage literature around student neighborhoods, according to Sam Marvin, the group’s chair. On election day, Marvin said, his group sent out about 400 text messages and made many phone calls.

Marvin expressed disappointment at the vote’s outcome, but said his group’s outreach efforts were largely successful.

The College Democrats targeted 10 precincts, concentrating on the student voting population. According to Marvin, the Democrats increased voter turnout in those precincts by an average of 530 percent compared with 2007’s local elections.

“In the specific areas that we targeted, we saw an increase in turnout,” Marvin said.

One hundred and thirteen people voted in East Quad yesterday, but Marvin said only 26 voted there in 2007. Of those 113, Marvin said that 84 voted for the millage.

The greatest voter increase, Marvin added, took place in South Quad, where four people voted in 2007. Thirty-seven people voted there this year, with 32 voting for the millage.

While Marvin said that this year’s number for South Quad doesn’t seem like much, “considering the benchmark set in [2007], it’s a lot.”