The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)
STATE OF MICHIGAN
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL
SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS:
School board's decision to demolish school building
A general powers school district board that decides to demolish one of its school buildings is not permitted by section 1032 of the Revised School Code to submit the question to, or obtain the approval of, school electors.
Opinion No. 7045
February 24, 2000
Honorable Don Koivisto
You have asked whether a general powers school district board that decides to demolish one of its school buildings is permitted by section 1032 of the Revised School Code to submit the question to, or obtain the approval of, school electors.
In 1976, the Legislature repealed the School Code of 1955 and recodified it as the School Code of 1976, 1976 PA 451, MCL 380.1 et seq; MSA 15.4001 et seq. The School Code of 1976 was again revised in 1996 and is currently known as the Revised School Code. The Code is "[a]n Act to . . . prescribe rights, powers, duties, and privileges of schools, [and] school districts." Before the Legislature revised the Code in 1996, school districts were divided into several separate classes. After the 1996 amendments, primary, second, third, and fourth class school districts became "general powers" school districts. See Revised School Code section 11. All public school districts in Michigan are either general powers school districts or first class school districts. A first class school district1 is governed by a separate part of the Code. See sections 401 through 485.
General powers school districts may submit measures, propositions, and questions to the electorate if the proposed question is "within the scope of the powers of the electors"2 and if the school board determines the question to be just and proper for the management of the school district or the advancement of education in the district's schools. Section 1032(1). The school board must submit a question to the electors if it is one that "may be voted on and decided by the school electors" and if not less than 10% of the school electors sign a petition asking that the question be submitted to the electorate. Section 1032(2).
Previous Attorney General opinions have interpreted similar statutory provisions to prohibit a local school board from placing on the ballot questions that the Legislature had not expressly given to school electors. For example, OAG, 1975-1976, No 5057, p 514 (June 22, 1976), considered the language of former section 73 of the School Code of 1955, which provided that special elections may not be called by a fourth class school district unless the question to be decided in the special election is "within the lawful authority of the electors to decide." OAG, No 5057, concluded that this language prohibited a fourth class school district from calling a special election to rescind a previously approved bond issue because there was no express statutory authority for the electorate to rescind a bond issue. Similarly, OAG, 1983-1984, No 6243, p 362 (August 28, 1984), considered former section 152 of the School Code of 1976, which provided "[a] special election shall not be called unless the questions to be voted upon are within the lawful authority of the school electors to decide." OAG, No 6243, concluded that this statutory language prohibited the electorate from compelling the board of a fourth class school district to call a special election to address whether a previously approved property tax increase should be reduced, because the Legislature had not given to the electorate express statutory authority to reduce a property tax increase.
The Legislature has given school electors in general powers school districts the authority to vote on various measures, propositions, and questions pursuant to several sections of the Code. But the Legislature has not given school district voters the authority to decide whether to demolish the district's school buildings. On the contrary, the Legislature has given the boards of general powers school districts the express authority to acquire, construct, renovate, dispose of, or convey school property. Revised School Code section 11a(3)(c). This language implicitly authorizes a board to demolish a school building.
It is my opinion, therefore, that a general powers school district board that decides to demolish one of its school buildings is not permitted by section 1032 of the Revised School Code to submit the question to, or obtain the approval of, school electors.
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
1 A first class school district is a single school district that has at least 100,000 pupils enrolled on the latest pupil membership count day under section 6(7) of the State School Aid Act of 1979, MCL 388.1601 et seq; MSA 15.1919(901) et seq. Revised School Code, section 402. The only first class school district currently in Michigan is the School District of the City of Detroit.
2 A "school elector" is defined by the Code as a person properly qualified under Michigan Election law, registered as provided under the Code and a resident of the school district on or before the 30th day before the next ensuing annual or special school election. Revised School Code, section 6(2).