Metro Detroit school districts were asking voters to approve funding requests on Tuesday’s primary ballot, from a non-homestead millage renewal for Detroit public schools that would raise $65 million a year to a $200 million school improvement bond in Bloomfield Hills schools.

In very early results Tuesday evening, the Detroit millage renewal was receiving an 83% yes vote, while the Bloomfield Hills proposal was receiving a 57% yes vote. 

The request by the Detroit Public Schools Community District to renew 18 mills for 11 years is especially important, school board president Iris Taylor said, because it will allow the district to continue to repay the operating debt held by the district’s predecessor, Detroit Public Schools.

The renewal does not increase current taxes and only applies to owners of rental properties, business properties and vacation homes. Taxpayers living in their own principal residences or owner-occupied homes do not pay this tax for the state’s largest school district.

According to a Financial Review Commission report, DPS’s principal debt obligation balance was $2.043 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020, which ended June 30. That includes $1.437 billion capital debt, $366.4 million operating debt and $239.5 million School Loan Revolving Fund debt. 

The capital debt is projected to be paid off by 2052, the operating debt is projected to be paid off by 2027 and the revolving fund debt final mandatory repayment date is May 1, 2046, the commission report said.

Because school districts cannot use general operating funds for school building improvements, Hamtramck Public Schools is asking voters to approve a $35 million bond proposal for improvements to aging school buildings and to eliminate the use of portable classrooms.

Hamtramck Public Schools Superintendent Jaleelah Ahmed said the need for additional funding is critical. One of the district’s buildings dates back to 1896, Ahmed said.

If approved, the bond would allow the district to build a 37,000-square-foot elementary school that would serve students in K-6. Money would also be used to replace windows and HVAC systems in six remaining school buildings.

In Oakland County, the Bloomfield Hills School District is asking voters to approve a $200 million bond for updates to all school sites that district officials say will improve safety and provide enhanced spaces for teaching and learning.

Additions to school buildings are to include gyms, cafeterias, classrooms, a pool and secure entryways. The bond would also be used to remodel and refurnish school buildings, athletic fields, playgrounds and other facilities and construct a new transportation and maintenance warehouse center.

If the bond passes, the district will reconfigure buildings to have four K-5 elementary schools and two 6-8th grade middle schools. In 2023, it plans to change attendance boundary lines but not district boundary lines.

In other districts:

►Grosse Ile Township Schools is asking voters to approve a renewal of its general operating millage of 21.3276 mills.

The renewal is the 18 mills the state allows the district to levy on non-Homestead property plus another 3.5042 mills the district is allowed to collect as a “hold harmless district,” Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch said.

If approved, it would raise about $2.25 million in 2021 for general operating costs such as teacher salaries, utilities and classroom costs.

►The Waterford School District is asking for $150 million in bonds to pay for constructing and furnishing a new early childhood center; replacing school buses and making building additions to school buildings. It would also allow the district to upgrade and buy safety and security equipment. In initial returns, the proposal was receiving a 53% yes vote. 

►South Lyon Community Schools is asking for approval of a $98.7 million school improvement bond to construct additions in school buildings to accommodate growth in enrollment and maximize instructional space. The district’s proposal was receiving a substantial yes vote in early results from Oakland and Livingston counties. 

Bond money would also be used for student safety and school security; technology infrastructure and equipment upgrades; building updates and furniture replacement, the district said.

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