Voters say no in Saugatuck

SAUGATUCK, Mich. – Voters rejected an 18-mill school tax renewal in Saugatuck on Tuesday, leaving Saugatuck Public Schools without 60 percent of its operating funds, according to The Holland Sentinel. Board members promised to return to voters in August with a better explanation of the district’s need for the money, The Sentinel reported.

For now, taxpayers won’t see the 18 mills on their summer tax bills, The Sentinel reported, and the district will have to borrow money to make payroll. If voters approve the millage in August, they would pay a full year of school taxes in December, the article said. If they reject it a second time, “We close down,” Trustee Mike Van Loon said, according to The Sentinel.

The 18 mills pays for general school operations. It is not levied on primary residences, but on second homes, industrial, commercial and other types of property, The Sentinel reported. School officials, stunned at the results, admitted they did not communicate well with the public on how the money is spent, according to the report. They also said they do not plan to ask a second time for a 1-mill increase for building and site work.

Millage opponents said the district has been spending too much on athletic fields, The Sentinel reported, which were funded by an earlier bond issue.

“We dropped the ball on communication. We were cavalier with this group that is anti-school,” said board Secretary Anne Wiley, according to The Sentinel. “Maybe we’re too insular.”

The Holland Sentinel, “Saugatuck school officials regroup after ‘catastrophic’ vote,” May 6, 2009

Michigan Education Report, “School property taxes could increase $5.5 billion over 10 years,” Sept. 8, 2002