By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
After considerable discussion at a July 7 meeting, Oxford School Board moved 7-0 to not approve an Oakland County regional enhancement millage resolution that would go on the November ballot.
“I think it’s poor timing,” said President Tom Donnelly.
Oakland Schools Intermediate School District proposed adding a 1.4 enhancement millage for ten years. The millage would help offset estimated decreases in state funding due to Covid-19. By law, the ISD would not receive any money from the millage and 100 percent of funds would go to each local district equally per-pupil.
If voters approved the millage, each school district would receive an estimated additional $427 per-pupil, according to the ISD. In order make it onto the ballot, school districts representing at least 50 percent of students within the ISD must pass identical resolutions asking for the millage to be placed on the ballot. Oakland County voters would then be able to vote for or against the millage in November.
Oxford Schools Trustee Mary Hanser at first spoke favorably of the resolution. “I don’t like the idea of raising people’s taxes,” she said. “I also don’t want to miss the chance to keep our schools funded going into the future. The idea of a county-wide millage, for me, seems to be a very small investment to make sure we do keep some funding in our county for our county schools.”
Trustee Dan D’Alessandro said he understood where Hanser was coming from, but pointed out that Oxford taxpayers have generously supported a number of bonds and millages in recent years.
Secretary Heather Shafer said they can find ways to tighten the belt if needed. “I am not comfortable asking for a tax at this time, during a pandemic when so many people are still unemployed,” she said.
Treasurer Korey Bailey speculated that if the schools have to go to a modified schedule in the fall, parents would have to work modified schedules to accommodate the schools. “We’re asking them for more money when we, as a school, may be doing less service for them than what they’re paying for. I’m not comfortable asking our tax payers for that.”
Trustee Erick Foster said, “I don’t like asking people for more money, but I like giving people the choice to choose themselves. For me, we put the option on the ballot and let the voters decide what they want.”
D’Alessandro would have agreed, if it was just for Oxford, but it will be the bigger districts that decide, he said, because they will have more voters turn out.
“If 98 percent of Oxford votes no, but 75 percent of those bigger communities vote yes, guess what, our constituents here in Oxford, if they vote it down, their voice isn’t really heard because it’s being decided by somebody else,” he said. The opposite situation could happen, where 98 percent of Oxford votes yes, but that still would not outweigh the larger communities, he added.
Donnelly said that as a school board, they may not influence whether the resolution passes at the county level, but optics matter. “We represent this district, we represent these people. And, we have asked them for quite a bit of money. And they have in the last several years dished out a lot of money. . . We have people out of jobs. We have small business owners that don’t have them anymore. We have people so tense about the future. This is not a time for Oxford to tell Oxford people they got to give more.”
By James Hanlon