News Story

59 Percent Say ‘No’ To School Tax Hike, 18 Months Later It’s Back

Resident claims it’s the same repackaged as ‘security’; '$1,500 toilet partitions, $11,000 scoreboards'

From 1997 to 2010, voters in the Chippewa Valley school district approved all four tax-supported bonds placed on the ballot by the school board. Their votes authorized property tax increases that cost taxpayers nearly a half billion dollars ($445.7 million).

The string of “yes” votes ended in May 2017, when 59 percent of voters said “no” to another property tax increase, this one to support $90 million in new borrowing. Despite the substantial margin of that defeat, Chippewa Valley voters will face another tax hike on the Nov. 6 ballot, this one to service the debt on a new $97 million bond.

District officials have named the tax hike proposal “Safe Schools, Strong Schools,” and the spending it pays for would include things like purchasing security cameras and replacing door locks.

“Keeping students safe has never been more important, and our top priority at Chippewa Valley Schools is the safety of our students, staff and families,” said Ron Roberts, Chippewa Valley Schools superintendent, in a press release. “While we are doing many things well on school safety, more can and must be done to face continually evolving school threats.”

Roberts didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

One parent was bothered that Chippewa Valley requested that voters take on more debt just 18 months after they rejected a similar request.

“We said ‘no’ to a Chippewa Valley schools $89.9 million-dollar bond proposal last May 2017, and without regard for the $442 million dollar existing bond project debt, they have now put a $97 million dollar proposal on the November 2018 ballot,” said Grace Caporuscio, who lives in the Chippewa Valley district. She continued:

“Although a district letter to parents states, ‘Security analysis found the district has kept up with security and safety best practices,’ they have repackaged this proposal for ‘safety and security,’ playing off parent’s fear of potential school violence. In addition to minor security items, the district lists other necessities such as $1,500 toilet partitions, $11,000 scoreboards and $25,000 to cover glass block windows. ... We can’t trust them anymore.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Chippewa Valley School District had the second-highest amount of long-term debt in Michigan, behind Detroit’s public school district.

Chippewa Valley taxpayers owed $488.1 million on long-term debt taken out by the district as of 2014, the latest year for which federal data is available. That came to $29,625 in debt per student.

Detroit’s school district had the highest amount in per pupil debt at $38,927. L’Anse Creuse Public Schools came in third at $21,621.

Over a 13-year span from 1997 to 2010, Chippewa Valley school district voters approved tax increases to support nearly a half billion dollars in debt for infrastructure upgrades and to erect new buildings. Voters approved a $83.4 million bond in 1997. Another $104.1 million debt issue was passed in 2001. Voters approved a $168.4 million bond in 2004, and another $89.8 million bond in 2010.