District seeks to restore full operating millage

Proposal aims to prepare district for future millage reduction

Kindergarten students listen to a story at West Elementary School

Voters March 10 will consider a Headlee Override millage proposal to bring the district’s operating millage back up to 18 mills — recapturing revenue and adding a 1-mill buffer in the event of future reductions through 2026.

The district’s revenue is reduced by the Headlee Amendment, a 1978 amendment that automatically “rolls back” the millage rate to equal the rate of inflation in order to keep taxes from increasing more than inflation. It decreases the amount of mills a district can levy, or collect, when property values increase faster than the rate of inflation. 

Because of that, this year Wyoming only levied 17.5508 mills, even though 18 mills is the norm and state-authorized maximum non-homestead millage that can be levied. This equates to a loss of approximately $180,000 this year, or $42 per pupil, said Matt Lewis, assistant superintendent for Finance and Administrative Services.

If voters do not approve the proposal, the district projects a loss of $250,000 next year and increased amounts after that, based on taxable values.

Proposal in a Nutshell

• School district’s current non-homestead operating millage: 17.5508 mills
• Current millage rate was reduced by .4492 mills from state-authorized 18 mills, due to Headlee Amendment limiting tax revenue growth to rate of inflation
• Requested “Headlee Override” operating millage increase: 1.4492 mills
• Approval would restore operating millage to full 18 mills, with 1-mill buffer only used if future tax revenue growth outpaces inflation
• Millage does not apply to principal residences, but to non-homestead properties such as businesses, vacation homes and rental properties
• Restoring the .4492 mills will cost $44.92 for the owner of a non-homestead property with a taxable value of $100,000

“Any reduction of resources would likely lead to a close examination of what would need to be reduced or eliminated if there is a shortage of funds to support,” said Superintendent Craig Hoekstra.

Explaining the Buffer

While the request may be unfamiliar to voters, it’s a result of a favorable property market in West Michigan and low inflation. That means more rollbacks are probable, Lewis said. That’s why the proposal is for 1.4492 mills — to cover any future rollbacks — though the current millage has only been reduced by .4492 mills. The requested rate would only be levied to the extent necessary to restore reductions.

The millage affects non-homestead properties, which include businesses, investment properties, vacation homes and rental properties. It is not levied on primary residences, so there is no cost to homeowners. The cost of 18 mills for a non-homestead property with a taxable value of $100,000 is $1,800 per year. The district last approved its 10-year 18-mill operating millage renewal in 2016.

The district is also two years into construction projects, made possible by a $79.5 million bond approved in 2017, and planned over several years. A $40 million renovation and expansion of Wyoming High School is in progress.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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