20 August 2012

Millage Sought to Offset Decline in Property Taxes

by Peak Positions

Original article appeared in the Detroit News

Wayne County, like much of the state, has witnessed an exceptional decline in property taxes. Residents of the WC Community College District will be asked in November to approve a millage of 1 mill for 10 years to offset the decline.

The community college — which has an enrollment of about 72,000 students on five campuses — has lost more than $30 million over the last two and a half years. The Chancellor attributed the loss to the economy and property devaluations, foreclosures and residents leaving Detroit. Unlike state universities, community colleges depend primarily on property taxes for operating revenue, along with tuition.

"We won't survive without it," said the Chancellor. "We just don't have a choice. It's about sustainability."

The 1 mill would cost a homeowner of a $50,000 home about $25 annually.

If approved, the mill would raise $18 million for the college's $103.5 million budget.

The remaining $12 million lost will be made up "creatively," according to university officials.

One item on the table is possibly closing the community college's eastern campus on Conner Road near Interstate 94.

Earlier this year, WCCCD raised tuition by $10 per credit hour, from $89 to $99. The increase means that students taking a 12-credit load will pay about $120 more per semester, officials said.

WCCCD currently levies 2.2 mills on residents in 36 townships and cities in Wayne County. One of the mills is permanent; the 1.2 mills is a 10-year millage that expires in 2015. But the community college cannot wait to seek a renewal.

The Chancellor said he hopes voters will approve the additional mill, and he expects they will.

"People recognize the importance of what we do," he said.

But not everyone agrees.

"I believe in education and I believe people need to get training," said one member of the Wayne County Taxpayers Association. He went on to accuse the District of wasting and abusing taxpayer funds.  

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