ELECTION 2012: WAYNE COUNTY: WCCCD seeking millage to cover property tax losses

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Courtesy of the News Herald

The decline in property tax revenue isn’t just hurting Wayne County’s government.

Officials at Wayne County Community College District say the drop in property values brought on by the 2008 financial collapse has left it in dire straits.

The college system — a campus in Taylor is among five in the district — is asking voters to approve an additional 1 mill for the next 10 years to offset the shortfall. The question, along with five other proposals from Wayne County, will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

One mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed taxable value.

The college, which has an enrollment of a little fewer than 70,000 students, currently levies 2.25 mills on residents in the county. One mill is permanent and the additional 1.25 mills was approved by voters in 2005. An estimated 18,000 students were enrolled at the Downriver campus during the 2011-12 academic year.

Chancellor Curtis Ivery has said the college cannot survive without immediate help. He said the college system has lost more than $30 million

during the past three years and would raise about $18 million the first year the new millage is applied.

Officials likely will have to make cuts to cover the remaining $12 million shortfall. The college’s aging Eastern Campus, on Conner Road near I-94, has been mentioned as a possible casualty of the belt-tightening.

The college already has raised tuition $10 per credit hour to $99.

The college was a popular target for critics during the 1980s and ’90s but has improved its academic offerings and reputation under Ivery’s watch.

There was a flap in 2001 when some community leaders and legislators suggested giving municipalities the option of seceding from the Wayne County Community College District, but the matter died in a state House committee. Voters approved an additional 1.5 mills in 2001 and voted to extend it to 2021 seven years later at a reduced rate of 1.25 mills.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano’s latest budget included cuts in all departments. Like the college district, Ficano cited declining property tax revenues as the reason.

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