Meghan Gracy and Carol Lautenbach contributed to this story
Multiple districts — Voters in three Kent ISD districts on Tuesday, Nov. 8 approved millage requests. Rockford and Lowell residents renewed tax levies on non-homestead properties for school operating funds, while Forest Hills voters renewed a millage funding community recreation programs. Here are the details:
Rockford Public Schools
Request No. 1: A renewal of the district’s non-homestead operating levy of 16.5992 mills that funds 6.8% of the school district’s budget.
Voters said: YES 15,596 (64.9%); No: 8,423 (35.1%)
Request No. 2: Increase the non-homestead operating levy to 18 mills to restore funds lost in the past four years due to Proposal A, which reduced the millage approved in 1993 from 18 mills to 16.5992 mills.
Voters said: YES 13,165 (54.9%) ; No: 10,835 (45.1%)
The approvals will bolster the Rockford Public Schools general fund by approximately $562,571 each year for the next five years. This will directly impact the district’s ability to hire and retain quality teaching staff, said Mike Cuneo, assistant superintendent for finance. He said the administration, which will be negotiating with union members in spring 2023, hopes that this will allow Rockford to offer compensation packages on par with those offered by districts of similar size and demographics.
“This will make sure that we are at the right price point to attract great teachers,” he said.
As the new superintendent of a district that has reliably approved millage renewal requests, Steve Matthews expressed gratitude to Rockford voters.
“Our community understands the importance of school funding and its impact on creating and maintaining great schools,” Matthews said. “We are grateful to our community.”
Lowell Area Schools
Requested: Renewal of non-homestead millage for school operations.
Voters said: YES: 6,034; No: 5,612
Thanks to voters, the school district will receive full funding for the next six years and can continue providing instruction and transportation for its almost 4,000 students. District voters restored the operating millage by a narrow margin of 422 votes.
With the measure approved, Lowell Area Schools will continue to levy the 18-mill tax on non-homestead addresses, including industrial, commercial, business, rental properties and second homes. It does not apply to primary residences.
The millage also accounts for lost dollars due to inflation and rising property values under the Headlee Amendment and restores the district’s full, state-authorized 18-mill levy, which had been reduced to 17.0241 mills.
The approval will raise about $3.7 million in 2023, or approximately 10% of the district’s funding, according to the district.
Lowell Area Schools’ district includes the City of Lowell and Lowell Charter Township, as well as precincts in Ada, Bowne, Cannon, Cascade, Grattan and Vergennes townships in Kent County and precincts of Boston, Campbell and Keene townships in Ionia County.
Forest Hills Public Schools
Requested: Voters were asked to approve a 10-year renewal of a millage passed in 2004 for community recreation programs and to restore funding back to the original 1-mill level; the renewal is for .9815 mill and the restoration for .0185 mill.
Voters said YES: 18,407; No: 9,977
The proposal to continue funding community recreation in Forest Hills passed by a wide margin. Nearly 65% of voters supported the measure to pay for a wide variety of community opportunities, including preschool aquatics, cooking and nutrition classes for adults and senior day trips. Events for all include music and theater performances. Programs held at the Aquatic Center and Fine Arts Center will be supported as well.
“We are grateful for our community’s support of learning for people of all ages,” said Superintendent Dan Behm. “Our recreation millage allows us to provide educational and enrichment programming for youth, adults, and senior citizens. With the support of our community in 2004 and now with their support in 2022, this shows the value that residents place on lifelong learning, health, and vitality.
“We deeply appreciate the work of our community enrichment program staff and the dozens of community members who share their talents in teaching these classes and creating opportunities for youth and adults.”