Ann Arbor and Whitmore Lake voters will consider the annexation plan in less than three weeks. The plan was the focus of much of today's Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber's IMPACT 2014 event. Area business leaders heard plenty of questions about the proposal.
Proponents of the annexation plan say it's a way to boost enrollment numbers for Ann Arbor Schools, increase the state funding for students currently in Whitmore Lake, and should benefit both districts. The districts are also guaranteed a $1.4 million dollar consolidation grant. But the plan will increase taxes for Ann Arbor homeowners by .25 mills instead of a .19 mill decrease expected next year without the annexation.
Former school board member and retired businessman Bob Rorke plans to vote against the proposal.He says per-pupil funding levels and the one-time state funds are superficial in terms of getting answers to questions about long-term costs. These unknowns trouble him when considering a merger, especially of two districts with declining reserves. "Whitmore Lake due to lack of funds, in Ann Arbor we have, you know, quite a bit of funds being directed to education. It's just that we don't implement those funds in the most business-like manner to get the most out of our money for the students," Rorke says.
The head of Ann Arbor's teachers union agrees more clarity is needed before next month's vote. The Ann Arbor Education Association submitted 18 questions to Superintendent Jeanice Swift and plan to meet with her next week. President Linda Carter says a lot of teaching staff issues need to be resolved. "About where they would come in on the salary schedule? You know, if they are still probationary? You know, what year is that for them? Where are the issues in regards to numbers at the elementary school, middle school, high school? You know, do we take all 58 of the teachers?" Carter says.
Howard Hanna Real Estate Associate Broker Alex Milshteyn expects Whitmore Lake real estate values to jump if the annexation passes. Currently the average Whitmore Lake home sells for $186,000 compared to Ann Arbor's $358,000 average. Higher sale prices are expected to also lead to more construction north of Ann Arbor. "Will cause a flurry of developments to be proposed all along Whitmore Lake Road, that's where most of the land is located. Whitmore Lake Road is one lane each way. That's going to cause a lot of traffic," Milshteyn says.
Conversely, If annexation fails and Whitmore Lake's district is eventually dissolved, Milshteyn says home prices will plummet. He's still trying to decide how to vote. He thinks annexation is a benefit for the region overall, but doesn't like the tax increase for Ann Arbor property owners.