Over the past few weeks, I’ve read and heard more than anyone should about the Headlee Amendment and Farmington Public Schools’ Nov. 7 request to override the reduction in its operating millage.
I did this as much for myself as anyone else. I didn’t grow up in Michigan and so missed the debates over Headlee before voters approved it in 1978. If you’re looking for a refresher, Michigan State University Extension provides a concise fact sheet on its website.
Headlee’s purpose seems clear: Ensuring that property owners aren’t overburdened with taxes when values rise higher than the rate of inflation. But given today’s circumstances, I’m voting yes on the override.
Headlee isn’t the only “tax watchdog”. Proposal A caps growth in property valuation, which also caps local government budgets. The double whammy isn’t just limiting, it’s punitive – and especially so for a school district with declining enrollment.
The Headlee loss isn’t insignificant. Translated in real terms, $170,000 is the cost of two and a half new teachers or four bus routes. And the reductions build every year we allow them to continue.
But while the money is important, let’s talk about us for a minute.
Farmington Public Schools voters have a proven ability to hold the district accountable. Case in point: a capital bond that took several years to pass and came through at a significantly lower level than first proposed, with additional community oversight.
We all voted in 2015 to renew an operating millage. Whether or not you voted “yes,” we pledged a level of support. In my mind, the over-ride defends that vote, and the additional mill protects our decision several years into the future, without the cost of future elections.
I know some folks will vote “no” because they don’t trust the district, and I’ve lived here long enough to understand why. But in my mind, the Headlee override isn’t about the school board and administration.
It’s about upholding a commitment that our community has already made.
Got an opinion about the November elections? Here’s what you should know: GUIDELINES, DEADLINES FOR ELECTION-RELATED LETTERS