Farmington Schools asks voters for Headlee override, ‘cushion’

Here’s some good news: Property values across Farmington Public Schools rose last year more than the cost of living.

That increase, however, has cost Farmington Public Schools about $170,000.

Caught by the state’s Headlee constitutional amendment, the district is asking voters on Tuesday, Nov. 7 to restore the 0.1548-mill reduction.

Supt. Dr. George Heitsch said he was surprised by the rollback, as voters approved a 10-year renewal of the district’s 18-mill operating levy just two years ago.

“We realized it (this past) spring,” Supt. Dr. George Heitsch said, “because the Oakland County Treasurer’s Office helps you establish what your millage rates are moving forward. They started indicating to us in April and May, maybe even earlier, that maybe you won’t be able to levy your full millage.”

Headlee limits the local millage to the amount it was originally designed to collect. According to a Michigan State Extension fact sheet, if the taxing unit’s overall property valuation rises at a higher rate than the cost of living, “the maximum property tax millage must be reduced so that the local unit’s total taxable property yields the same gross revenue, adjusted for inflation.”

The district is also asking for a 1-mill “inflation cushion,” which is allowed by state law.

“We think we might be in this position for the next two or three years cumulatively, and we didn’t want to be coming back every November to ask for the override,” Heitsch said.

Vote affects only non-homestead properties

This ballot question will only affect business and other non-homestead property owners, like those who own vacant land or a second home. The cost varies, but as an example, Farmington Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Director Kate Knight said the impact on all of downtown Farmington’s 130-plus property owners (combined) will be about $3,500.

Heitsch said this year’s budget reflects the $170,000 loss. But if voters don’t approve the over-ride, School and Community Relations Director Diane Bauman said, the effect would worsen moving forward.

“The compounding piece is the real worry for us,” Bauman said.

The district can continue to ask voters to restore the rollback, “but this is by far the least expensive time of the year for us to ask,” Heitsch said.

Heitsch has presented information about the ballot measure to parent groups, community organizations, and at a public forum. The district will also host a Greater Farmington Area Chamber coffee on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 7:30 a.m., in the Farmington High School Media Center.

While coming back to voters after the 2015 millage renewal and recent capital bond requests has been a little frustrating, Heitsch has found a bright side.

“We’ve seen every PTA every year,” he said. “That’s not bad. It’s a lot of work, but it’s not bad.”

Learn more on the district’s website, and see a sample ballot at farmgov.com or fhgov.com.

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