To the Ovid-Elsie Community:
Educators today have responsibilities that now reach far beyond the classroom walls. Education is more than a career for those at Ovid-Elsie Area Schools, but rather a passion. Their skills, traits and functions help our schools become more dynamic places. The excitement and energy of our K-12 institution has led to our school’s involvement in a variety of important initiatives such as the Ovid-Elsie’s very own online school, the creation of 5 Chinese sister schools, dual credit programs, an expansion of foreign language courses, technology initiatives and integration, and increased standardized test scores.
Over the past several months we have had a strategic group soliciting your input and feedback on a few proposals such as a sinking fund millage, a technology bond and the Headlee Restoration. We have placed a survey online, in local businesses and in the paper to gather input from the entire community – not just the school community. When our District asks voters to support a millage we do so while trying to remain considerate and respectful. We took that feedback very seriously and have narrowed our needs to those that are of extreme importance. We have removed the technology request and have only included ballot language for a reduced sinking fund and the restoration of the Operating Millage (Headlee).
This November you will have some critical decisions to make as you head to the polls. Ovid-Elsie Area Schools will be asking for your support on these very important ballot questions. I encourage you to ask questions and gather information so that you can make an informed decision before checking any box.
Our first attempt at the sinking fund was not successful and we have studied the reasons why and have brought back to you a more refined, definitive proposal to consider. The millage would be levied at 1 mill for 5 years. The proposal calls for roof replacements, updates to laboratory equipment, repairing bathroom partitions, the replacement of the stadium slate, and a few other repairs and updates. We feel that these are the necessities to continue to improve upon the wonderful facilities that we already have.
Probably one of the most difficult pieces to understand is the Headlee Restoration. The Headlee Amendment, as it is referred to in the Michigan Constitution, was approved by voters in 1963. In a nutshell, Headlee requires a local unit of government to reduce its millage when annual growth on existing property is greater than the rate of inflation. As a consequence, the local unit’s millage rate is “rolled back” so that the resulting growth in property tax revenue, community-wide, is no more than the rate of inflation. Although it might appear that a community with an annual increase in uncapped property values would benefit monetarily, uncapped values are treated as growth on existing property and trigger Headlee rollbacks. For local governments levying at their Headlee maximum authorized millage, rolling back the maximum authorized millage rate reduces the revenue that would have been generated from these increased property values. The increase in the taxable value of property not transferred is capped at the lesser of inflation or 5 percent. Even though the taxable value of a particular piece of property increases at the rate of inflation, the millage rate for the entire community is “rolled back” as a result of the increase in the total taxable value of the community.
So, what does all this mean?
The important thing here is to recognize that this is on non-homestead property. In other words, this is not a “new tax” on your personal home and will not impact most voters. The restoration will increase the levy by approximately 0.53 mills back to the full 18 mills. The rollback has decreased revenue for the District by about $20,000 per year. The full, original millage will expire in 2013 – a net loss of roughly $606,000 to Ovid-Elsie Area Schools and that will need to be renewed at a later date. I can tell you without hesitation that this would be a dramatic blow to our school system and one that would truly be devastating to our educational programming.
We are doing our best to educate the community on the impact that funding has had on our schools in Michigan over the past few years. We have worked hard to stay frugal, but our expenditures continue to exceed our revenue. When you factor in demographic data and student enrollment, we estimate that Ovid-Elsie Area Schools could be in significant financial trouble within 3-4 years if something does not change.
Again, I ask that you take a hard look at the facts and the realities that we are facing. Education must remain a priority in our community. We value all input and we understand that there are pros and cons to every proposal. We will do what is necessary to help provide you with the information that you need to make an educated decision and most importantly, we will do what is necessary to help Ovid-Elsie Area Schools remain a world class school district!
At Ovid-Elsie Area Schools our staff, administration and Board of Education are committed to doing what’s right. This is established with a firm foundation rooted in our Strategic Plan, modeling integrity and practicing ethics. It is certain that our constituency may not agree with every decision made within the District, but it is also important to remember that at the heart of every decision lay our mission and our vision. Our actions, words and decisions may define us – but when you look at our successes, measured by the number of students we have educated and their current contributions to our global society, it’s hard to argue our practices.
Dr. Ryan L. Cunningham, Superintendent
Ovid-Elsie Area Schools