By Jef Rietsma
Renewal of a non-homestead operating millage for five years will go before Vicksburg Community Schools’ voters in a May 3 election.
If approved, the 18-mill tax – $18 per $1,000 taxable valuation – will be levied on non-residential buildings and homes used as second residences. It would raise about $2.1 million.
Assistant Superintendent Steve Goss at a January school board meeting called the tax a critical source of funding. The board at the meeting approved placing the request on the ballot.
Goss said the non-homestead operating millage was created as the result of the state’s voter-approved Proposal A in 1994. The district tends to seek renewal every five years.
“This millage represents the first dollars, or the local portion of our per-pupil foundation allowance,” he said. “The state of Michigan requires that communities levy this non-homestead millage and the state pays the difference between the calculated foundation allowance and how much they assume that we collect locally.”
In Vicksburg’s case, that amount is about $2.1 million currently, Goss said. He said it was worth repeating that the source is part of the district’s base, per-pupil funding.
“If you look at that $2.1 million on a per-pupil basis, that’s about 10 percent of our foundation allowance, or right around $800 per kid,” he said. “So, if that millage were not levied, our per-pupil foundation would drop … the net effect of it would be that we would receive about $7,900 instead of $8,700, or about $2.1 million of less revenue.”
Goss went on to emphasize which taxpayers are impacted. The millage is only levied on non-homestead properties; it does not apply to residential properties whose owners have declared homestead status. Non-homestead residential properties are typically second homes or seasonal residences.
Non-homestead status also applies to businesses within the school district’s boundaries.
Goss said May’s vote, if approved, will also allow the district to collect the full amount it’s allowed to levy – 18 mills. In this case, the difference between what it is authorized to levy and what it collects is about one-half of a mill, he noted.
The request being offered in May is by design. Goss said if it fails, the district would have a chance to regroup and try again in August, and yet again in November, if circumstances warrant.
“It’s been around, so people are, for the most part, pretty familiar with it,” he added. “At the same time, we don’t take it for granted. We still have a job to do, to communicate and make sure people understand what it is and why it’s important, that it’s not a new tax; it’s not something additional.”
Board president Skip Knowles chimed in after Goss’ explanation.
“The big thing you pointed out that I’ll re-emphasize is this is not on any of our (primary) residences,” Knowles said. “This is businesses, corporations that are in the school system.”
By Jef Rietsma