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Recreation programs on Nov. 2 ballot

East Grand Rapids—A renewed and slightly increased version of a successful 2004 millage will be back on the ballot when voters go to the polls on Nov. 2.

In 2004, voters approved a 20-year recreation millage that offset a variety of costs the school district needed to operate athletic, performing arts and classroom facilities for after-school programs.

The new proposal is for 1.5 mills for 20 years, up 0.1 from the 1.4 mills in the 2004 millage. Anthony Morey, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said the increase was calculated to approximately offset the three Headlee rollback millage rate reductions that may occur in 2022, 2023 and 2024 before the new recreation millage, if approved, is levied for the first time. 

In a letter to families, East Grand Rapids Public Schools noted that the owner of a $500,000 home with a taxable value of $250,000 would pay about $375 a year under the proposed 2024 millage, an increase of $80 from the current $295.

Though the 2004 millage is not set to expire for two more years, Anthony Morey, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said the district wants to be proactive and not run right up against the renewal deadline.

“This new 20-year recreation millage will, if approved, mostly renew the millage passed in 2004 that is set to expire in 2023,” he said. “This new millage will begin in the summer 2024 and extend through 2043, ensuring long-term stability.”

Morey noted that East is one of four districts in Kent ISD’s coverage area to levy a recreation millage, joining Forest Hills, Northview and Rockford.

The advantage, he added, is that before 2004 costs associated with after-school programs were part of the general fund budget and subject to the pressures that could arise when budgets were tight. Moving the costs to a recreation millage pulled them from the general fund budget and provided both safety and stability for the funds, and thus, the programs.

‘This new 20-year recreation millage will, if approved, mostly renew the millage passed in 2004 that is set to expire in 2023. This new millage will begin in the summer 2024 and extend through 2043, ensuring long-term stability.’

– Anthony Morey, assistant superintendent of finance and operations.

Community members are invited to attend one of the following millage presentations:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. – Lakeside Elementary PTO meeting 
  • Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. – Community virtual presentation
  • Thursday, Oct. 14 at 9 a.m. – High School PTO meeting 
  • Monday, Oct. 25 at 9 a.m. – Middle School PTO meeting

The slideshow to be presented at those meetings can be viewed on the district’s website.

EGR Middle School students in 2019 performed ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ in the high school’s Performing Arts Center, which would receive improved sound and lighting under a requested recreation millage

New Outdoor Spaces for Classes & More

In the first year of the millage in 2004, some $647,000 was raised for the after-school programs. Last year the total was about $965,000.

Almost 60% of that went to pay custodians, another 15% for utilities, 11% for the community pool, 10% for fields and grounds and 5% for the salary of the Performing Arts Center manager.

Morey anticipates that if the millage passes on Nov.2, about $1.2 million will be available in the first year, and said the district hopes to make some one-time improvements with the extra funding.

That would include lighting and sound updates to the high school’s Performing Arts Center, and some new outdoor gathering spaces at Breton Downs, Lakeside and Wealthy elementary schools.

“Being able to take classes outside is valuable,” he said. “We learned the value of being outside for mental health and wellness during the pandemic. So we’re looking at those sites and thinking about how we can create spaces where 35 different people can gather comfortably, maybe for classes, maybe sports teams that have pre-game meetings, maybe families having a picnic. Permanent, maintenance-free spaces. One-time efforts with long-term benefits.”

Morey said the district’s ballot question is wholly separate and unique from the city’s parks improvement bond proposal. 

“The recreation millage does not directly fund any city program or capital expenditure,” he said.

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers East Grand Rapids, Kelloggsville, is lead reporter for Grand Rapids and also is the point person for the SNN Facebook and Twitter feeds. He hails from Exeter, Ontario, but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985. He is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop! Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both freelance writing and public relations work, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level. In the summer of 2019, he began his own freelance writing and communications business. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children. Read Phil's full bio

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