Millage in the Village: District hopes to renew the fund to maintain safety, other spending


Graphic by Abi Wilson ’20.

Evie Kuhnlein '20, Business Manager

On Nov. 5, the school district will seek to renew the operating restoration and extension millage and the sinking fund. The millage, which makes up 25 percent of the GPPSS annual budget, as well as the sinking fund, which makes up 3 of 10 million dollars the district, are needed to keep buildings safe and operable, according to the GPPSS website. These are not added taxes to homeowners, but simply a renewal of taxes already being paid.

“These funds from taxpayers stay right here in our community– they’re going back into our schools,” mother and Grosse Pointe South alumna Bridget Christian said. “To lose that funding would be incredibly devastating for our classrooms at every level.”

With a budget of over $100 million to operate on yearly, the renewal of the millage is imperative to keep the community and district appealing and competitive, according to Christian. 

“This is money that is currently being spent today and this year,” Grosse Pointe Farms mother Mandy Koop said. “It’s not new money– if it’s not approved, the money would need to be cut from the budget, which would definitely result in more school closings.”

Due to our state-appointed hold harmless title, school board member Judy Gafa said, the state assumes that Grosse Pointe taxpayers are making up the difference in per pupil funding that the state cannot afford for districts similar to Grosse Pointe. Without this assumed revenue, GPPSS would be losing around $2,000 per student, she said. 

“When the state was in a recession and the district had to cut $400 per student, our teachers took a huge pay cut,” Christian said. “If we had to cut $2000, we would be in a district like we’ve never seen before.”

The funds from this help pay for things like textbooks, school programs, staff salaries and the everyday running of the school district, Gafa said, whereas the sinking fund is more of an emergency fund strictly used for things like tuckpointing and repairs to the buildings.

“We have to be very specific about what we can spend that money on,” Gafa said. “It is not open-ended– it’s very regulated.”

Some taxpayers who disagree with how the reconfiguration process and bond were handled over the last year may have wavering faith in the school board right now, according to Grosse Pointe mother Irena Politano. She said it is important to note that the bond and reconfiguration is seperate from the millage renewal.

 “If you’re unhappy with the school board, voting in November of 2020 is the better choice than to vote against the millage,” Gafa said. “Truthfully, you’re not hurting the board of education (by voting no on this)– you’re just hurting the students.”

The millage has been renewed every five years since it was introduced to the community in 1995. In 2014, the community voted to renew this millage at 70.5 percent “Yes” and 29.5 percnet “No”, according to 2014 Wayne County election results. If not approved this year, the district can run the vote again in May without facing any initial financial issues, according to Gafa.

“If the community has said they don’t want it, that tells me the community is not interested in paying that millage anymore– we would really have to look at where to cut that spending,” Gafa said. “To me, as a board member, it is an overwhelming thought. I don’t know where we would make that money up.”