Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

July 28, 2013

Editorial: Actions cloud NMC millage request

There’s no denying Northwestern Michigan College’s significance in the Grand Traverse region.

NMC generally is a fine community college with a broad menu of educational fare, as well as strong niche programming, including nursing, aviation, maritime, culinary and water studies. NMC is a community staple, a strong presence in local education, business and social circles.

The college offers opportunity for local young people who may not have the means or grades to attend a bigger school elsewhere. Many older students and mid-career job-changers also have benefited from NMC, particularly so during the last decade’s devastating economic collapse.

NMC mainly is funded through three sources: student tuition, state revenue, and taxes levied on Grand Traverse County property owners. County voters in 1995 agreed to permanently fund NMC through a millage that started at 2.57 mils but since settled to about 2.2 mils, thanks to Headlee rollbacks.

NMC’s Board of Trustees in April agreed to place a, 15-year, .4-mil tax increase request before county voters this year, a figure that effectively would restore its original millage rate and raise $1.7 million in 2013. College officials contend state funding cuts and stagnant property tax revenue necessitate a tax hike, but they’ve been woefully vague about how they plan to use proceeds from the additional tax. In effect, their pitch is: “Trust us.”

Recent revelations, including details pried out of NMC officials in Record-Eagle stories last week, certainly cloud the trust sales pitch, and demand that local voters think long and hard when they cast ballots at an Aug. 6 special election.

NMC administrators and elected officials in April came up with an election strategy designed to give them the optimal chance at victory, though it’s a strategy some voters and taxpayers likely will find at least off-putting.

NMC targeted an Aug. 6 special election as opposed to the standard November election because, they contend, they didn’t think they could get an approved November tax increase on winter 2013 tax bills. But NMC officials, including President Tim Nelson, learned otherwise way back in April. Nelson and others never mentioned that fact to board members, nor did board members follow up and ask whether November could be in play.

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