Kent County voters on May 2 turned out to the polls and expressed confidence in their schools by approving a ballot proposal that will provide crucial support to all 20 districts in Kent ISD. The enhancement millage will yield approximately $211 per pupil for each of the next 10 years, beginning with the 2017-18 school year.
These dollars are essential to help our schools meet the needs of students, maintain programs and create more connections to the world of work as we prepare young adults for careers.
They also create a small, but stable and reliable source of revenue for schools as Lansing grapples with perennial budget problems, which make it very likely legislators will be tempted to drain even more money from the School Aid Fund for higher education in coming years. Currently, more than $600 million is going out of the School Aid Fund to support community colleges and universities.
The recent Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, conducted twice a year to predict revenues available for state government, forecast slow growth in Michigan’s general fund and significant budget pressures ahead.
Just a week earlier, the Senate Fiscal Agency projected a $2.072 billion hole in the general fund budget in five short years, due largely to the road package that passed in 2015 with a commitment to use general fund dollars to augment the fuel taxes dedicated to road repair. Other factors contributing to the projected deficit were elimination of the Personal Property Tax on business and the sales tax on the difference between the price of a new vehicle and the customer’s trade-in.
Legislators are already responding to the pressure. In the wake of the bleak general fund projections, Republican Rep. James Lower of Montcalm County introduced HB4261 to divert some $430 million from the School Aid Fund to the general fund by reversing the decades-long policy of applying all tax refunds to the state’s general fund.
Amid all of this, Kent County taxpayers sent a clear message to Lansing: Education is important. Students deserve better. We need to adequately fund our schools to ensure a positive future for our children, and our communities.
So, again, on behalf of our students and our schools, thank you. For those of us who have devoted our careers to the education of children and the betterment of our communities, it is reassuring to know our community values our commitment to this work. Cheers!