For those concerned about the funding of schools, the May 5 election ballot will present ample opportunity to address it.
In addition to Proposal 1, the statewide ballot issue that would generate money for roads, schools and local governments, voters in Kent ISD will see funding requests from five school districts. They include two major bond issues, a bond renewal and two renewals of the state-authorized, 18-mill tax on non-homestead properties.
School News Network provides a breakdown of the requests, how much they would cost and what they would pay for.
Kenowa Hills Public Schools
Voters are being asked to approve a bond issue that would raise $78.6 million over the next five years. If approved, it would hike the district millage rate for capital improvements by approximately 1.65 mills to an overall total of 5.2 mills. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $82.50 per year.
The bond proactively addresses current and future needs, and builds on “essential” improvements made witha 2010 bond issue, Superintendent Gerald Hopkins said.
“Should the bond pass, all of our students would benefit from enhanced educational environments and a continued emphasis on technology as a tool to support 21st century learning,” Hopkins said. “These investments in our children will allow us to direct the money from state to the classroom where it belongs.”
Voter approval would fund several areas:
- Safety and security improvements, including remodeled security entrances, increased camera coverage and improved bus loops and parent drop-off sites at all buildings;
- Improved school environments, such as floor, ceiling and lighting upgrades, new furniture, replacing counters and cabinets and remodeling rooms;
- Technology enhancements, ensuring all students have Chromebooks or iPads, updating and replacing lab computers, updating multimedia equipment, improving data wiring and Performing Arts Center equipment;
- Facility improvements, including new roofs and mechanical upgrades in all buildings and a new Early Childhood Center;
- Replacing aging buses, including 17 over the next three years; 60 percent of the district’s 33 buses are over 10 years old. The district owns those buses even though it contracts with Durham Transportation Services to drive them. It costs less for the district to buy new buses than to lease them from Durham, and purchasing them with bond funds means the district doesn’t have to draw on funds to teach students, officials say.
Kentwood Public Schools
Passage of two ballot initiatives would provide the district with funding for technology, security and facility improvements. However, approval of the requests would not raise the current tax rate.
The two proposals include:
- A $64.8 million bond issue that would extend the current debt millage, and would require an estimated 1.23 mills in 2015. It would pay for improvements over the next eight years.
- Renewal of the 2006 building and site sinking fund, currently allocated at 1.6 mills, for 10 years and yielding about $3.2 million annually.
“Both proposals are based on months of preparation and research, including an independent facility analysis, surveys, community forums and updates to the district’s five-year strategic plan,” said Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff. “The technology, safety, and building upgrades ensure that our students will remain globally competitive and continue to receive an education of excellence and equity for all.”
Here is a breakdown of the requests:
- Approximately 25 percent for technology enhancements including Broad-based technology initiatives, devices including tablets, desktop and laptop computers, and enhanced school and district-wide communication systems;
- 30 percent for Collaborative Technology Learning Centers, renovated media centers ideal for group space and the latest technology;
- 25 percent for safety upgrades including security cameras, traffic-flow site work and replacement of an aging bus fleet over 10 years;
- 20 percent for site improvements such as maintaining athletic fields.
- Unlike bond issues, which yield large sums districts must pay back with interest, sinking funds pay as they go, yielding only as much as is raised by yearly tax revenue.
- A renewal would generate approximately $3.2 million annually for work such as roof and parking lot replacement, heating and cooling upgrades, and work to extend the life of facilities.
Godwin Heights Public Schools
Voters will decide the outcome of a $14.1 million bond renewal for 15 years that will not raise property taxes.
The district’s current debt is set to expire from the current levy of 4.8 mils to 3.2 mills. Approval would replace the 1.6 mills set to expire in December. The annual cost to an owner of a $100,000 home would be $78.
Funds would pay for:
- New secure entrances and technology upgrades for all school buildings;
- Purchase of three school buses;
- Improve traffic flow and install new flooring in all school buildings;
- Fill in an indoor pool at the high school and thereby create an auxiliary gym;
- Replace the football field with synthetic turf, construct new locker rooms, and build a new concession stand and restrooms for spectators.
Caledonia Community Schools
Caledonia’s non-homestead operating millage is up for renewal, which is a zero-increase extension of 18 mills on businesses and second homes such as vacation homes and rentals. The tax is renewed every five years and would extend the current tax levy through 2020. Non-homestead bond renewals do not pertain to primary residence homes. A renewal would raise approximately $8.1 million in 2016 for operating purposes.
Forest Hills Public Schools
Forest Hills also is asking voters to renew its non-homestead millage, which provides the district an estimated $15 million annually in operating revenue. The district has asked voters every 10 years to renew the tax on properties including industrial, commercial, some agricultural land and second homes, but not primary residences. Approval would continue the millage through 2025.
The district is requesting 18.3424 mills as a cushion in case the millage in future years gets rolled back under the Headlee Tax Limitation Amendment, which requires millage be reduced if property-tax revenue increases more than inflation. Districts by law may not assess more than 18 mills in non-homestead taxes. But should Headlee come into play, the district would be allowed to begin its rollback from 18.3424 mills if voters approve the request, said Julie Davis, district assistant superintendent of finance and operations.