Yes Vote Would Have ‘Immediate Impact’ on Classrooms

Sara Shubel

On May 2, voters in the Kent ISD region will be asked to approve a 0.9 mill tax for local school districts, generating $211 per student to maintain programs, improve services and meet other needs. School News Network is offering information on what the millage means for each of the 20 districts in the Kent ISD. Today we focus on East Grand Rapids Public Schools. SNN spoke with Superintendent Sara Magaña Shubel.

How much revenue would your district gain from the millage? For EGRPS, the approximate $211 per pupil will generate an additional $617,000 annually (based on current enrollment) for 10 years.

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What would you spend that on, and how would this help your students? EGRPS will use 100 percent of these additional resources from this millage proposal on instructional programs and services that impact teaching and learning. One area in particular is reading support. “We already have reading consultants at the elementary level, and I would love to expand that to the middle school level,” Shubel said.

“Also what we would be looking at is, are there things we have cut in the past that we could afford to bring back? It would all be immediate impact at the classroom level.”

If the millage were to fail, what changes or cuts would you have to make next school year? “We have started to bring back our rainy day fund, but we are nowhere near where we should be. The board has used the fund equity in order to keep up, but if you look at a district our size, to have cut $4.74 million over seven years is enormous.

“The only thing we have been able to bring back this year were the K-1 parapros, and that’s because of EGR Now!,” a parent-initiated drive to raise funds to replace some programs cut in 2012-13. “To me, this (enhancement millage) is going to be critical.”

Superintendent Sara Magaña ShubelWhat objections or questions have you heard, if any, from your community, and what is your response? “One question I have been getting is, ‘What took you so long to come to this conclusion (that the enhancement millage is needed)?’ There are so many factors behind the decision to go to taxpayers, and all our districts had to be at the right point. We’re basically now all in the same boat.

“Another question is, why didn’t we ask for more? Thereason we chose to stay under the 1 mill is because multiple districts have just gone through bond requests. EGR went in 2014. Communities in West Michigan have been very supportive when districts have asked for bonds; we’re talking significant bonds for capital. Proposal A prohibits using bond funds for traditional operational purposes. (The enhancement millage) is a new concept as far as going after operational dollars.”

CONNECT

Strong Schools, Strong Communities informational website

EGRPS enhancement millage FAQs

EGRPS Community Budget Guide

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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