The speakers at Washtenaw Community College’s June board of trustees meeting couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the college’s millage renewal and restoration on the August 2 ballot. Representatives from the United Way and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber praised the school, while county commissioner Ronnie Peterson declared it was “on the forefront of a crusade.”
The only negative words spoken were by trustees Dave DeVarti and Ruth Hatcher when they voted against a proposed 1.5 percent raise for college president Rose Bellanca. But it passed 5-2, and Hatcher later thanked those who spoke in support of the millage.
“WCC makes a difference in the lives of not only our students but the employers who count on hiring our graduates or training their employees to have skills needed in the workplace,” Bellanca emails. She also notes that they “employ 1,555 full and part-time employees, making the college a major local employer.”
When voters last approved the operating millage, in 2004, it was for .85 mills, or $85 for every $100,000 of taxable value. The Headlee tax limitation amendment has since reduced that to $83.32 a year. Now, Bellanca explains, “We are seeking voter approval of the original 0.85 mills for 10 years.”
Even WCC’s faculty union, which voted no confidence in Bellanca in 2014, is backing the millage. “We’re voting for our students,” explains president David Fitzpatrick passionately. If it’s defeated, he explains, “we will lose $10 to $12 million in revenue per year, and that money’s got to come from somewhere, and it will come from the students [in tuition hikes] or drastic reductions in staff and faculty–or a combination of both.”
County commission candidate Jason Morgan, WCC’s former head of government relations, is confident it won’t come to that: “Barring any campaign against it,” he predicts, “it’ll pass easily.”
This article has been edited since it was published in the August 2016 Ann Arbor Observer. The year of the faculty’s no-confidence vote has been corrected.