Hate the tax, but support our schools: Vote YES on non-homestead millage proposals

There’s a lot at stake in the Nov. 8 general election. The future is on the line.

We’re not referring to race for the White House.

We’re talking about the possibility of the Oxford school district losing more than $5 million annually and the devastating impact that would have on our students.

That’s why we are wholeheartedly encouraging school district residents to cast two YES votes for the non-homestead operating tax renewal (17.8078 mills) and increase (0.1922 mills).

Both are 10-year proposals. Together, they would enable the district to levy the maximum 18 mills allowed and expected by the state.

But first, let’s be clear about something.

We don’t like or agree with the non-homestead tax in principle. We think it’s absurdly high, it’s discriminatory and it’s unjust.

It clearly overburdens non-homestead property owners by forcing them to pay a whopping 24 mills in local and state taxes (excluding bond debt) for public education, while homeowners pay only the 6-mill State Education Tax.

That’s not taxation, that’s plundering.

It’s most definitely a prime example of discrimination because it forces a minority of property owners to pay four times more than the majority via a special tax – a tax from which the majority is exempt.

No group of property owners should be singled out like this and made to shoulder a heavier tax load. Property is property, people are people – they should all pay the same rates and be treated equally.

The non-homestead millage also, in many cases, constitutes taxation without representation. If non-homestead property owners don’t actually live in the school district, they cannot vote on the school millages that directly impact them.

They have absolutely no voice at the ballot box, yet if they don’t pay these taxes, they risk financial penalties and losing their property. That’s wrong.

And what’s worse, the majority of people who are exempt from the non-homestead tax get to decide the fate of something that doesn’t directly impact their pocketbooks. They’re voting to tax others, but not themselves. Again, that’s wrong.

If someone owns property in a school district – or in a township, village or city – they should be able to vote on any and all millages, regardless of where they reside. Property ownership should be the main qualification for voting on millages, not simply residence.

That being said, people often have to play the hand they’re dealt in life and make the best of a bad situation. This is one of those times. It is what it is.

This is the system of school funding approved by state voters in March 1994 when Proposal A passed. That’s what created the 18-mill non-homestead tax.

Oxford Community Schools is not alone in levying this tax. Districts all over Michigan do it because the state assumes every single one of them is collecting the maximum 18 mills when it calculates the annual amount of per-pupil funding schools receive from Lansing.

Oxford did not invent this tax. It’s simply functioning under a system that’s been in place for more than 20 years.

We think the system stinks and it should be reformed, but we also realize that can only happen at the state level.

Failing Oxford’s non-homestead millage won’t change things. It won’t make the overpaid, underachieving do-nothings in Lansing sit up and take notice.

All it will do is make Oxford students suffer by severely diminishing their educational experiences and hindering their ability to compete with students from other districts when it comes time to apply for colleges and jobs.

Failing these millages will blow a massive, $5 million-plus hole in the annual district budget beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

Make no mistake, the state will do nothing to plug that hole. There will be no bailout, no special access to surplus money, no reprieve from the governor.

Oxford will be on its own and the only way to solve things will be budget cuts, the likes of which the district has never seen.

Every single Oxford student would he hurt by these cuts.

That should be utterly repugnant to any fair-minded, rational person.

Think about it. The district could completely eliminate the transportation and athletics departments, with their combined $3.2 million in budgets, and still need to cut another $1.8 million to make up for the loss.

There’s absolutely, positively no way the district could slash that much from its budget and not negatively impact the quality of education each and every student is currently receiving.

Cutting $5 million isn’t a simple matter of trimming a little fat here and there. It would literally require gutting the budget.

That’s unacceptable to us. And it should be unacceptable to every single district voter out there, whether or not they have children attending school here.

It may sound cliche, but children are our future and the key to a better, brighter future is education. Take away their opportunity to learn, grow and thrive in the classroom, on the athletic field, beneath the stage lights or under the hood in auto shop, and we jeopardize their future along with our own.

We need our students to learn today, so they can become the doctors, engineers, mechanics, artists, musicians, teachers, police officers, firefighters, entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow. Voting against these millages would be a classic example of cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

If you hate the non-homestead tax, fine. Work to convince our so-called leaders in Lansing to change things, but don’t punish Oxford students for a funding system that was created before they were born.

Until the system changes, Oxford students need our support, they need our dollars and they need our votes in the Nov. 8 election. It’s the right thing to do.

Please vote YES on both the non-homestead millage proposals and continue giving our students everything they need to succeed.

Right now, there are no viable funding alternatives out there, so there is no logical reason to vote against these millages.

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