Cadillac Schools tax renewal to appear on Tuesday’s ballot

Mar 9, 2020

Cadillac Area Public Schools has a millage renewal on Tuesday's ballot.
Credit Laura Michels / Interlochen Public Radio

When voters within the Cadillac school district vote in Michigan’s Primary Tuesday, they’ll also decide whether to continue funding a millage.


It pays operating costs for Cadillac Area Public Schools, according to the district. 



People whose primary residence is in the district will not be taxed. 

However, secondary homeowners and business property owners will continue paying the tax if the millage is renewed. 


On a Wednesday afternoon in downtown Cadillac, Kaycie Ramsey, the owner of the consignment store called Your Sister’s Closet, promotes her business via Facebook live. 


Ramsey says many small business owners like her operate on thin margins.


Kaycie Ramsey owns Your Sister's Closet in downtown Cadillac.
Credit Laura Michels / Interlochen Public Radio

“When you have a small business you don't get into it to be rich. You get into it because you’re  passionate about it,” says Ramsey.


She says extra taxes from millages can hit a small company hard. 


Ramsey doesn’t own the building her store is in, so she won’t be subject to the tax directly. However, she worries her landlord could pass the cost on. 


“She could have always passed it along to me as in my raising rent. I have been fortunate enough she has not, so I’m very grateful for that, but I don't think people might take that into consideration when you are owning your own building,” says Ramsey. 


Just down the street, R.J. Grant was steaming shirts inside his clothing store that bears his name. 


He owns the building that houses his business, and he leases space to two others. 


If the millage is renewed, he’ll continue to pay what is likely thousands of dollars each year.


RJ Grant steams shirts inside his clothing store in Cadillac.
Credit Laura Michels / Interlochen Public Radio

It’s money he’s happy to give.


“Well we’re just all for education,” he says. “We don't have any other ways that we can help at this point in time. That’s our means and that's how we do it.”


If approved, the millage will bring in more than $5.5 million a year to the school district.


That’s 17 percent of the district’s budget, according to Cadillac Area Public Schools Superintendent Jennifer Brown. 


This is how the millage breaks down. The current authorized rate is 18.9924 mills. That means each $1,000 of taxable valuation would be taxed $18.9924. 

So a property with the assessed value of  $100,000 would be taxed about $1,900 dollars annually. 


“This is how we pay for curriculum, materials, heating buildings, teacher salaries, said Brown. “So, it is a considerable amount of our operating budget —  transportation, buses, maintenance, custodial, food service,” Brown says.


The poverty rate in Wexford County is higher than the national average which was 11.8 percent in 2018. In Cadillac, it sits at 13.1 percent, according to the latest Census Numbers. 


In response, the district says it offers things like free and reduced lunches and literacy programs in the summer and year around tutoring.


“Some of those things that we wouldn’t have to provide we feel we do because they’re basic needs for our kids so they can focus on reading, math, science, social studies, the arts and some enrichment activities that really fulfill a good educational experience,” says Brown.


The last time this millage went up for a vote was in 2013. It passed by 73 percent. 


Brown says she doesn’t take another yes vote for granted.


However, if it’s not approved she doesn’t plan to cut the budget. She says she’ll bring the issue to voters again. 


It’s important to note, this millage renewal is different than the bond voters approved in 2018, according to the district. 


That one was for capital improvements.