Say 'NO' to Proposed $243 Million Saginaw Township School Millage May 2nd

Posted In: Politics, Local, Taxes, News, Local,   By: Richard Spitzer

18th March, 2023     0

On May 2nd of this year Saginaw Charter Township voters will be voting on a millage proposal by Saginaw Township Community Schools to fund a $243 million investment in upgrading safety and security; improving the learning environment; and updating facility infrastructure.  

The real question is not whether our school infrastructure is in need of repair and updating, but whether we can afford the exorbitant cost of this particular plan.

This ballot proposal requests authorization to borrow $243 million through a bond.   To pay back the loan, it seeks a 5.75 mil property tax assessment.  Buried in the language, however, is the fact that to retire the debt with interest it anticipates it will need 7.55 mils for the next 30 years! 

According to the Township Assessor, the median market value of a home in Saginaw Township is $160,000, with a taxable value of $80,000.  So, the nominal cost to the typical taxpayer for the property tax increase is a minimum of $460 annually.  This would be in addition to existing annual property taxes and regular increases resulting from rising home values in the Township.  Of note, residents already pay 6 mils in State Education Tax for school operations and 3.9 mils for a prior bond’s debt service and a capital improvement Sinking Fund. 

So, the proposed millage works out to a nominal 147% increase, but a more likely 194% increase in the school property tax portion of the typical homeowner’s bill for the next 30 years!

Can voters afford it?  Saginaw County is already one of the more highly taxed counties in the country:

  • We rank in the top 21% of all counties for property taxes as a percent of median home value
  • We rank in the top 16% of all counties for property taxes as a percent of median income.
  • We rank 24% below the national median income. 

Further, according to the latest Census Bureau estimates, 29% of Township residents are 65 years old or older, many on fixed incomes.  And 42% of our residents earn $50,000 or less per year!

Student enrollment in Township K-12 schools has been dropping for at least the last 15 years, 7.1% in the past 10 years.  There is little indication this trend will slow or reverse in the foreseeable future.  Will the roughly $1,860 additional investment per student per year for the next 30 years result in better learning outcomes? 

Clearly this plan would be a huge burden on a great number of our residents.  Improvements to the schools are needed, but have we exhausted all other ways to make change happen?  Is there no funding from State or Federal government to help defray some of the costs?  What about private foundations? 

Governor Whitmer recently reiterated her commitment to education and touted the $1.25 billion contribution to schools by the Michigan Lottery.  Has the possibility of lobbying the Governor and the Legislature to change the statutory language of current school funding laws to allow funds to be used for capital projects been explored? 

How about expanding the taxable property base?  Shouldn’t the State Government reimburse localities for State mandated property tax exemptions such as those for non-profit institutions and veterans?

Let’s hit the pause button on this initiative and explore all possible options so we can make changes without our most vulnerable neighbors having to absorb this financial burden. 


Editor’s Note:  Richard Spitzer is a member of the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners. A Town Hall Meeting on this upcoming bond proposal will be happening on Tuesday, March 21st at Hemmeter Elementary School Gymnasium.


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