It's Decision time for Whitmore Lake Public Schools. Voters in Ann Arbor and Whitmore Lake tomorrow decide if the annexation plan moves forward. Elected officials and those seeking office have mixed thoughts on the proposal.
Washtenaw County Commissioner Dan Smith supports the annexation plan. He's interested in the outcome because his district is comprised of most of the Whitmore Lake School District as well as the largest geographical portion of Ann Arbor Public Schools. He likes what the boost in per pupil funding from the state for Whitmore Lake students will mean for a pair of districts that have challenging budgets. "This is why the $1.8 million in brand new money is so interesting to a combined district. Money that neither district sees if they stay apart. This is really, truly, a carrot that the state is dangling out there saying, 'Go annex," Smith says.
It may be a less filling carrot than annexation supporters believe. There are costs to annexation and residents in the current Ann Arbor district will see an increase in taxes.
Ann Arbor School Board candidate Hunter Van Valkenburgh opposes the plan. He worries it carries longer term risk. "Larger and more spread out with greater transportation costs and then the state can sock us with another hit to the per pupil allocation and then we'd be in even worse shape than we are now," Van Valkenburgh says.
The plan has critics in Whitmore Lake as well. Lisa McCully is running for Whitmore Lake's Board of Education. She opposes annexation because it means a lack of control.
The proposal must pass in both communities for annexation to move forward. If the issue fails, Whitmore Lake officials say painful cuts will likely be needed to balance the budget next year.
Candidates running for both Boards of Education are split on annexation. In Ann Arbor Donna Lasinski, Jack Panitch and Christine Stead support the measure. Patricia Ashford Manley, Hunter Van Valkenburgh, Jeffery Harrold, Roland Zullo, and Susan Baskett in opposition.
In Whitmore Lake incumbents Jim Vibbert and Anne Iaquinto support the plan and Lisa McCully and Kalyndra Craven oppose the proposal.