School building tax passes by slim majority in low voter turnout

A little over 900 voters turned out for Tuesday's school millage proposal. The millage was passed by a margin of 22 votes.

A little over 900 voters turned out for Tuesday’s school millage proposal. The millage was passed by a margin of 22 votes.

By Charles Sercombe
Let the repairs begin.
The Hamtramck Public School District’s millage won by 22 votes on Tuesday.
The millage will bring in $750,000 a year for the district and allow it to make repairs to school buildings for the next 10 years.
In total, 466 voters approved the 4-mill tax and 444 voted against it. A little over 900 voters turned out, which is less than 10 percent of the registered voters.
There is a long list of repairs needed, which includes floors, ceilings, roofs, restrooms, doors and security.
The district’s four schools are each 100 years old or nearly so.
Hamtramck’s millage election was one of eight school and city millages in the metro area up for vote on Tuesday, May 6.
The only millage to fail in Tuesday’s vote was a proposal to expand the Birmingham Library, which voters overwhelmingly rejected.
Lined up in favor of the Hamtramck schools’ millage were school boardmembers and most of the city council. Only Councilmembers Mohammed Hassan and Abu Musa spoke out against the millage.
School Superintendent Tom Niczay, who had campaigned door-to-door prior to the election, was elated about the vote.
“I’m very appreciative of the voters of Hamtramck approving this millage. The staff at Hamtramck Public Schools will work diligently to be accountable as stewards of the tax dollars collected,” he said.
Mayor Karen Majewski was also in favor of the millage. On her Facebook page, the mayor called the vote “a victory for Hamtramck’s schoolchildren and for the whole city.”
But some residents commenting on her Facebook page were not pleased with the tax. Former city councilmember Phill Kwik rejected the proposal, saying:
“If anyone actually thinks that giving those who run the Hamtramck School District more money will help Hamtramck’s children, you are sorely mistaken. The District has mismanaged money for decades, has blocked education reform in the schools, has let district property fall into disrepair, and — as a result — has robbed generations of Hamtramck children of a decent education. …”
Kwik’s wife, Camille Colatosti, is a former president of the School Board but was booted out of office in a recall election. The teachers’ union was largely behind that recall.
There was no apparent organized anti-tax campaign in this election. The district had a committee, made up of parents and school supporters, run the campaign for the millage.
For the average homeowner, the millage will mean paying an extra $70 per year. It was not known at press time when the new millage will hit the city’s property tax rolls.

At 8 a.m., only one voter was waiting to vote at People's Community Services, said this school millage supporter.

At 8 a.m., only one voter was waiting to vote at People’s Community Services, said this school millage supporter.

4 Responses to School building tax passes by slim majority in low voter turnout

  1. Delphine A Slezak

    May 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I just sent a flaming email to the Mayor and the state Attorney General….22,000 population and only 910 votes?…secret vote?… WHO KNEW ABOUT THIS VOTE?..certainly NOT all the citizens. I found out about it by accident. There were no flyers, no mailings, no media coverage?…were the 910 voters school board members and family only? There was no internet coverage either…WHAT GIVES?

    This is outrageous…I don’t have any kids, AND my parents sent us to private school and we ALL pay school taxes..to pay for something we never used is insult enough…but to sneak in a millage is BEYOND insult. Seems to me more like theft.

    DA Slezak

  2. Jackie Dziedziula

    May 7, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    I am an HPS teacher, so I guess I had ‘insider’ information on the May 06 millage election, but I’m not sure it was a ‘secret’. Just as one example, in the May 2, 2014 issue of the Hamtramck Review, there are no less than FOUR items regarding the Millage Election: a front page article, and OpEd piece and two letters from Hamtramck residents. I read the Hamtramck Review weekly, and I am sure there have been other references to the vote in the past several months.

    There are Repair Our Schools yard signs posted on homes and businesses all around Hamtramck-in plain sight.

    At least two months ago, an acquaintance of mine who lives in town, and who has no kids in the schools, asked me about the millage.

    The close result of the election shows that this was a hotly contested issue for voters. About 5,000 Hamtramckans voted in the last presidential election, so I think about 1,000 is pretty good turnout for a school millage vote.
    Jackie Dziedziula

  3. Rahiel

    May 7, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I am writing in response to the comments above to let this person know that yes it was discussed in the review newspaper, public school teachers went out knocking on doors of registered voters to discuss this topic with them, AFT union members called from a call center downtown to registered voters, there are signs all over the city that say, “repair our schools”, and people have been discussing it. It’s a shame that this reader feels anti public schools when OUR public schools are something that are there for everyone at any time, unlike private and charter schools.

  4. Nasr Hussain

    May 9, 2014 at 1:16 am

    A better school system means a higher real estate value and more people opting to stay and raise their children in Hamtramck. This money is urgently needed. The school district is running a deficit and the cuts in the budget are really hurting the students. Would you rather spend the money on educating the students or hiring more officers to arrest students committing crimes because of a failed school system.

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