Don’t expect marijuana boon

We were concerned in May when some voters expressed on social media that they’d rejected Alpena Public Schools’ $63 million bond request because they were convinced tax revenue from newly legalized recreational marijuana sales would provide the schools more than enough money.

As reporter Steve Schulwitz highlighted in a Saturday story, that just won’t be the case.

The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency currently estimates $182 million in excise tax revenue from marijuana sales by 2023. If that happens — and some people think those figures are high — that would only pump an amount equal to about $97,000 per school district into the state’s School Aid Fund, based on the tax disbursement formula spelled out in the new law.

That’s enough to hire a teacher, not to make districtwide facilities improvements.

And it’s unlikely APS would even get that amount. Because school revenue is doled out based on enrollment, districts in bigger cities would get a larger chunk of the pie.

Even if marijuana tax revenue eventually reached $1 billion, that would only equal about $585,000 per school district. Nothing to sneeze at, but still not the $63 million APS says it needs.

As marijuana checks cut to schools are based on enrollment, checks cut to counties, cities, townships and villages are based on the number of marijuana businesses operating in each community’s borders. The revenue each government would receive also depends on how many municipalities have allowed marijuana sales, because the pot is only divided among participating local governments.

That means the smaller communities here in Northeast Michigan would get far less than bigger cities downstate, where multiple marijuana businesses are likely to operate.

Marijuana tax revenue, even if it reaches stellar proportions, is not a financial cure-all for our schools or local governments. And there are too many variables and unknowns to count on that revenue reaching those stellar proportions.

So we encourage our local government leaders not to count on marijuana income to balance their books. And we would encourage our readers not to cast votes based on what you think might happen from marijuana sales.

Vote for or against tax proposals on the merit of the proposal itself, not because of some possible windfall that may or may not come to pass.