Six Kent County school districts are asking their voters to approve property tax requests on the Nov. 6 ballot. The requests are listed on the second page of the mid-term ballots, causing some school officials to fear they will be overlooked by voters.
The districts of Rockford, Kenowa Hills, Northview and Caledonia are asking voters to override the Headlee Amendment, which automatically rolls back property tax rates when property values rise faster than the rate of inflation. If the requests are approved, the districts can continue to collect taxes on non-homestead property at the state-authorized rate of 18 mills.
Rockford voters, however, face a two-part proposal on the non-homestead millage. The first part asks them to renew the existing, Headlee-reduced rate of 17.1268 mills. The second part requests restoration of the state-authorized tax levy of 18 mills on non-homestead properties, which include industrial, commercial, business, rental and vacation properties.
Northview is also requesting voters approve a new sinking fund for building security.
In the Forest Hills and Kelloggsville districts, voters are being asked to authorize bond requests to fund building improvements. Forest Hills is asking for up to $130 million in bonding to fund building improvements over the next eight years. The approval will not raise taxes for district residents, according to Forest Hills school officials.
Kelloggsville school officials say their request for $19.2 million in bonding authority for a new school building also will not raise tax bills.
Here is a summary of the proposals:
Caledonia Public Schools
REQUEST: The district is seeking a two-year millage authorization to override the Headlee Amendment and ensure that Caledonia schools will be fully funded under the current state law. The district’s state-authorized rate has been reduced by Headlee to 17.8452 mills.
COST: If the millage passes, property taxes will return to the same 18-mill tax rate that has been in place since 1994 for owners of industrial, commercial, business, rental and vacation properties. The 18 mills equate to $1,800 in non-homestead tax per $100,000 of taxable value.
Forest Hills Public Schools
REQUEST: Voters are being asked to approve a $130 million request to fund capital improvements over eight years. Most of the funds will be used for updated technology infrastructure, reconfiguration and furnishing of learning spaces, and media center improvements. The funds also will be used to move the district administrative offices from a 1951 elementary school building along Cascade Road SE to a new building that will be built on the Fine Arts Center campus near Forest Hills Avenue and Ada Drive.
COST: If this proposal is approved, the total tax levy needed to make the required debt payment for the new and existing bonds is decreased by .10 mills. The net impact to tax payers is a reduction from the current tax rate.
Kelloggsville Public Schools
REQUEST: Voters are being asked to approve a $19.2 million bond request that will fund a new third-through-fifth-grade elementary building.
COST: If approved, the proposal will not increase school taxes, but continue the district’s current levy of 7.32 mills.
Kenowa Hills Public Schools
REQUEST: Voters are being asked to approve an eight-year override of the Headlee Amendment. Approval of the 1.0-mill override will allow the district to levy the full 18 mills allowed by state law on non-homestead properties.
COST: If approved, the request will not change property tax rates on homeowners’ primary residences. Failure to authorize the operating millage proposal would decrease the district’s state School Aid Foundation allowance by about $16 per student in 2019.
Northview Public Schools
REQUEST: Northview Public School District voters will decide a pair of millage requests, neither of which will increase residential taxes if approved.
Prop. 1 requests restoration of the Headlee Amendment rollback on property taxes that expires in 2027.
Prop. 2 asks voters for permission to replace the district’s current sinking fund, to take advantage of a 2017 change in state law that allows sinking funds to be used for security and technology. The district’s current sinking fund allows only for repair and maintenance of school buildings. The fund would be used to construct more secure building entrances and would expire in 2025.
COST: If approved, Prop. 1 will restore the full 18 mill non-homestead property tax for the district but will not affect the tax rate that homeowners pay on their primary residences. Prop. 2 will not change the district’s tax bills.
Rockford Public Schools
REQUEST: Rockford voters will see a two-part millage renewal request from Rockford Public Schools on their Nov. 6 ballot. If voters approve Prop. 2 without approving Prop. 1, both proposals fail and the district will be unable to collect an 18-mill tax on non-homestead properties, which include land, businesses, rental properties and vacation homes. If both proposals are approved, the 18-mill levy on non-homestead properties will be restored.
Prop. 1: To renew the 17.1268 mills currently levied on non-homestead properties. Voters approved the non-homestead millage in 2014 at the state-authorized level of 18 mills. However, the millage has since been reduced because property values increased faster than the cost of living, as required by the Headlee Amendment.
Prop. 2: To override the Headlee Amendment by approving an increase of 0.8732 mills, thus reinstating the state-authorized 18 mills on non-homestead properties.
COST: Defeat of the renewal request would cost the district more than $5.5 million, or 6.8 percent of the current operating budget, effective Jan. 1.