The Menominee Board of Education will now go back to the drawing board after its request for a $44 million millage issue, spread out over 30 years, was defeated May 5. The vote was 1,822 to 1,460, a 362-vote margin.

If there ever was an ill-conceived request to raise property taxes in a community, it was this millage vote. The timing was horrible. With the coronavirus pandemic breathing hardship across the country, and unemployment, business closings and other segments of misery bearing down on citizens in all walks of life, it probably would have been wise to postpone the election until life in the community returns to normal.

In fairness to school leaders, however, plans for the election were put in place prior to the pandemic touching down like a bolt out of the blue.

The election was by absentee-voter ballot, a trend we are likely to see gain momentum in future elections to help reduce social separation. The absentee-voter turn out was 32.3%, a figure that likely would have been larger if the pre-election campaign had been more aggressive in getting out the reasons for the $44 million request, which happened to be the largest millage request in the M&M region.

We believe a majority of residents in the Menominee school district feel there is a need for making improvements and catching up on past maintenance woes, but the school district needs to do a better job in explaining what those needs are and provide a more detailed breakdown on what it will cost for the projects on its list of needs.

Furthermore, we believe there has to be a much better explanation of the complicated property tax program in Michigan. The district usually releases the local tax rate on personal property for residents, using the average priced home in the district. It is foolish to think property assessments will remain the same for the duration of the millage request. Local assessors review property values on an annual basis.

There’s more to the property tax scheme than just homeowners. Local businesses and corporations pay a large portion of local taxes. Their ability to withstand a sizeable tax hike also needs to be considered.

And, finally, the school board needs to better explain the need for construction and renovation of school property when student enrollment has fallen dramatically in recent years.

For example, when the current high school was built in the late 1960s, the 9-12 student enrollment was in the 1,250 category, which was considered to be a large Class B school. The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) recently announced Menominee High School has been classified a Class C school for the 2020-2021 school year.

We believe voters in the Menominee School District will be more receptive to a reasonable millage request with a more detailed explanation of answers to their questions.