By CHRIS YAGELO
Capital News Service
LANSING — More and more irritated suburbs are backing a bill to allow them to pull out of the Wayne County Community College district and take their tax dollars with them.
The bill, introduced by Rep. William O’Neil, D-Allen Park, would allow a city, township or village to remove itself from a community college district.
Wayne County voters approved a 1.5-mill increase in property taxes to support WCCC in last November’s election.
The increase was expected to provide $38 million for the college each year for 10 years.
As many as 20 communities are now supporting O’Neil’s bill as they say their tax dollars should not go to a college few of their residents attend.
Some cities have gotten a head start on the possible legislation. Riverview and Grosse Ile have already voted themselves out, pending the passage of the bill.
O’Neil argues that placing the millage on the ballot last November was unfair to suburban voters. “They placed a huge millage on the ballot at a time when the people who would vote against it were probably not going to the polls,” O’Neil said.”They were unaware that the millage was even on the ballot.”
The millage was also on the 2000 presidential election ballot. It passed in Detroit, but was defeated by almost 20,000 votes as suburban voters opposed it.
Taylor, the city where WCCC’s Downriver Campus is located, was one of the suburbs to vote against the millage.
Taylor Mayor Greg Pitoniak contends that the bill does not remove any city’s obligation to support community colleges, it only lets the city choose which college to support.
Van Buren Twp., the site of WCCC’s other suburban campus, also voted no on the millage.
If the bill were to pass, voters would have to choose another college to support: Schoolcraft in Livonia or Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn.
Critics of the bill say that removing funding will severely limit the growth that WCCC has been experiencing.
In a special column for the Detroit News, Gunder Myran, president emeritus of Washtenaw Community College and special counsel to WCCC, was adamant in his belief that the bill is quite harmful to the college.
“If the bill becomes law and the electors of a school district or governmental unit vote to separate from WCCC, the district would be severely damaged due to the loss of property tax revenues,” Myran wrote.
More than 17,000 students will attend WCCC this spring, up 62 percent from the winter semester. Chancellor Curtis Ivery attributed the growth to the 25 new programs offered by the college as well as the increase in funding provided by the millage.
The bill is under consideration by the House Committee on Redistricting and Elections.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By CHRIS YAGELO